Tailgate Alaska: Day 12 - A little goes a long way

I woke up on Wednesday morning to the wonderful sight of bluebird skies and the feeling that I would be blowing the rest of my heli budget. However, since I only had a few runs left, I had to wait until the afternoon to get the rest of my time in to give priority to the full day groups. In the meantime, I planned on making use of the Big Mountain Taxi service as much as I could. With the new snow that fell on Thompson Pass in the last few days, plus the wind transport, it was certain that there would be some good pockets of snow to slash in the mountains.

Never Summer Evo-R with Ride Betas, and Prior AMF Split with Spark R&D Fuse Bindings.
My quiver in AK, same as my quiver back home but temporarily with some Fuse bindings from Spark R&D.

On my way to the ABA office to put my name on the fly list, I ran into Eric from Spark R&D who offered to let me demo a pair of Fuse bindings. I was all over that since this would allow me to take my split board out without having to put the only pair of bindings I brought with me to Alaska back on the plates. I thought I would be a good idea to take my split out for some downhill action via Big Mountain Taxi since I wasn't sure I had time for a tour. So Doug shuttled me up and I got lucky to put down the first tracks in Gully One. The verdict on the Fuse bindings: so far, so good.

After two bumps on the Big Mountain Taxi, I decided to go check in with ABA again to see how much longer I'd have to wait to get on a ship. The full day groups were still out in the field, so it was going to be a while yet. Since I had more time to kill, but not enough for more runs with BMT, I decided to challenge Nick Perata, the reigning champion of Tailgate Alaska, to a game of ping pong. I quickly learned why he is the reigning champion as I lost 11-6, but on the positive side, how many people can say they got beat at ping pong by Nick Perata?

I checked in with ABA again, and they told me that the ship would be coming in soon for the group switch over and that I should make sure I had my group figured out. Lucky for me, Mike Basich, Eric Themal, and their photographer Mutty were on a photo shoot mission for Flow and needed a fourth. Naturally I wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to get on a ship with Mike Basich, and take part of the photo shoot. So the group was set, Badger was going to be our guide. We just had to wait for the ship to arrive.

It was already after 4PM when we finally got into the backcountry. Because the Basich crew needed good light for photos, we tried to stick to northern facing aspects. We started off on Bloodstain which I had already done last week, and was my favourite drop of the trip thus far, so naturally I was stoked. To make things even better, the snow was blower and waist deep in places; a little snow really does go a long way in Thompson Pass.

Eric Themal on the ridge of Gobbler's Knob
Eric Themal hiking to a higher ridge on Gobbler's Knob.

After getting a few shots (face and photo) on Bloodstain, Badger took us up to Gobbler's Knob for a second run. When we landed on the ridge of Gobbler's, I was stoked to see vast untracked snow in every direction with just the right amount of gnar to keep me just slightly gripped. I followed Mike and Eric down, trying to be at my best since Mutty was taking shots of me too and I didn't want to disappoint. After we reached the first shelf and dropped over into the next steep face, however, I hit some boiler plate snow which caused me to lose control. While I was trying to recover, I found a pocket of deeper snow which caused me to rag doll about 100 feet down the face. Apparently Mutty got a sequence of my fall because he figured that I'd probably want to remember that one. Fortunately the fall looked worse than it was because I didn't hurt myself too badly.

We charged down the rest of the face through a gully that made a natural halfpipe. It must have gone on for about 1000 feet and my legs were exhausted when we reached the bottom. We also had to billy goat out of the gully by doing a toe-side traverse on a steep incline that dumped over a cliff band back into the gully; the very definition of exposure. We all made it safely to the landing zone, but had to wait a good amount of time to get picked up since we were so far back. It was 7:30 by the time we got in the helicopter, so we decided to call it a day. We made it back to base stoked on the bluebird skies, blower powder, and epic lines.

Having now exhausted my heli budget for this trip, I'm hoping to rely on Big Mountain Taxi, and my own two feet to get any turns in the last few days remaining on my trip. However, even if I don't ride another day while I'm here, I wouldn't be too disappointed. Especially not after the day I just had: first tracks in Gully One, defeated at ping pong by Nick Perata, and sharing a ship with Mike Basich. It's safe to say that, without hyperbole, that my Tailgate Alaska experience so far has been epic.

Winter Matters Bubble

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I am so stoked for you..... very very jealous, but stoked non the less!!

Marc's picture

Just come to Tailgate next year, that's the cure for the "jealous".

Fingers crossed that I can!!! I'd be up for it!

Dude, I cannot WAIT to see your rag doll shot sequence haha, I'm totally going to get Lindsay to print them out huge and put them up on the wall somewhere!! bahahha epic!

Marc's picture

I have to e-mail Mutty to get me those shots, but I will.

Sounds like you have gotten some sick last days at Tailgate!!

Marc's picture

It's been a lot more low key since you guys left, but we had a few pretty epic weather days. I tried a back three off that wind lip on Gully One but I butt checked, so hard coming up to that blind. Kinda disappointed I can't go back up and try again.