Tailgate Alaska: Day 10 - Don't hate at Tailgate, snowskate until the weather breaks.

I woke up on day 10 of Tailgate Alaska to total greybird skies. It seemed unlikely that anything was going to go down, even Big Mountain Taxi was grounded; the light was really too flat to see any terrain features whatsoever. I've learned, from watching the movie “Lines”, that when in Alaska, you should expect strings of days like this. The trick is finding something to do on them. That became my mission, to find something to do on the middle of Thompson Pass when everyone is either too tired or hungover from the previous night's festivities to want to do anything.

Apparently the King of the Hill after party from the previous night was totally off the hook (bollocks, I misseds that too). Which would explain why the Tailgate Alaska village looked like a ghost town this morning, or more appropriately “Zombieland” because just about everyone looked like they were patient zero after a pull from the tainted bottle of whiskey. In a way, this down weather was good for them because usually after a night of heavy drinking, the gods of irony serve up a bluebird day.

Marc ripping down gully one on the Ralston snowskate passing the parked sled.
Not hating, but snow skating. This took a bit of getting used to, it's not like skateboarding at all.

I decided to go hang out in the Tailgate office for a while and give Dave Geiss a hand with setting up the display of Tailgate and King of the Hill hoodies that had arrived. While I was there, Justin came in and suggested that we should go out to gully one and try to snowskate it. He said we could shuttle up and down using his sled and he had a Ralston snowskate with a big ski on it which was suitable for the conditions. I was totally on-board because, not only was this a better plan than picking my nose in the RV all day, but it would be a hell of a good time. Besides, what a better place to learn how to snowskate than in the big park that is Alaska.

Before we could get started, I had to have a crash course in driving the sled. Until this week, I had never really ridden a sled, much less driven one, but I was glad that Justin trusted me enough with his machine to let me shuttle him up (or rather follow him down). It wasn't that difficult actually, as long as I stuck to the track and stayed out of the powder. While I was at it, I also learned how to double up on the sled canadian style (i.e. two people astride, one on each running board), I figured I should be a natural at it what with being Canadian an all.

I was the first to drop in with the snowskate. Justin figured I'd be okay at it since I do skateboard, however, snowskates are not like skateboards at all. Needless to say I took a few nose dives on the way down. Part of the problem was the flat light which prevented us from seeing any of the rolls. To mitigate this, Justin and I collected some twigs and dropped them along the run which made a huge difference: we could now see the terrain.

We spent a couple hours shuttling up on the sled, then riding down on the snowskate which is actually a lot more tiring than I had expected. I was actually getting the hang of it and could make it all the way down only falling once toward the end (the run we marked off was about 500 vertical feet total); I was pretty stoked.

Day 10 turned out to be a fun and enriching down day. I learned how to double up canadian style on the snowmobile, I learned how to drive the snowmobile, and I learned how to snowskate in one of the gnarliest places in the world. It's also possible that we scored a first descent on a snowskate in gully one (or at least the last 500 feet of it). If the NOAA forecast holds, tomorrow may be another snowskate day. However, this time we're hoping to make an event out of it: the first annual Tailgate Alaska Snowskate Jam. At least now I have something to look forward to if the weather is grey.

Winter Matters Bubble

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Canadian style eh.. i didn' tknow there was any other way to double on a

Marc's picture

There's also Alaska style and ghostrider style. Some people were doing the latter on Thompson Pass which is a definite no-no.