Tailgate Alaska: Day 14 - World Wide Freeride

Friday was a cold, bluebird morning which was as good a day as any for my last full day in Thompson Pass. Although my heli budget was completely exhausted, I was planning on making use of the Big Mountain Taxi service as much as I could since I had to return the Spark R&D bindings to Erik, and I was too lazy to put my Betas back on the plates (and frankly not interested on going back to riding plates after trying the Fuse bindings). I was determined to make the most of my last day of snowboarding in Alaska.

Snowy gully
This gully was a cool natural half pipe. Pow slashes and frontside airs for the win!

I started the day with a bump up Gully One again. The snow up top from the saddle has been good for days, and I really enjoy hitting the windlip about 2/3 of the way down the run. I decided to mix things up, however, by traversing east afterward and dropping into a gully that I had seen the day before which made for a fun natural halfpipe; it was perfect for pow slashes and small airs.

I waited a few hours for things to warm up and soften up before doing a second run down Gully One. This time I decided to throw caution in the wind and send it over the wind lip and tried a backside three. However, I but checked the landing which disappointed me a little bit (but only a little). I really have to hand it to guys like Travis Rice and Mark Landvik who bring freestyle to the backcountry because it's really intimidating to approach lips blind and be able to commit to doing your trick. No matter how many times I hit that same windlip since I got here, the landing looked different everytime and I only got to see it once I was airborn.

Just when it seemed that my riding in Alaska was done for the season, some people commissioned Big Mountain Taxi to take them to Odessey. Doug asked me if I wanted to go with them, since they would have to do two trips anyway, I agreed and I was stoked to get at least one more run before calling it a trip.

Marc walking back to camp in the snow.
It was a two mile walk back to base after 3000 feet of snowboarding goodness.

We got bumped nearly to the top of Odessey and hiked up to the peak. From the bottom we could see that Odessey had a lot of exposure; the face looked like it had chocolates chips all over it. But when we got to the top, we also discovered that it was very much wind scoured. Not wanting to navigate exposure on boiler plate snow, we decided to head over to Goodwills instead which was just east of Odessey. In hindsight, Odessey probably would have been rideable, however, it might not have been much fun. Besides, I did find a wide open, untracked face to slash a few pow turns which exponentially increased my stoke. After all, I was snowboarding, and that's better than the alternative: working. Even the two mile hike back to camp didn't dampen my spirits.

When I got back to camp, it was already after 6PM, so I decided to start packing up my gear. I was a little saddened when I put my climbing harness into its storage sack, took the batteries out of my avalanche beacon, and packed all that stuff in my snowboard bag. My Tailgate Alaska adventure is now winding down. I feel blessed to have taken part of it. I've met many great, and real, people from all over the world (Switzerland, Czech Republic, Austria, and of course the USA), and I got to snowboard in some of the best terrain on the planet. This festival truly is a world wide freeriding event and part of me is sad that it's over. However, part of me is also happy to be heading back home, I'm finding that I miss my friends and loved ones. Dave Geiss said to me that every time he comes to Alaska to get some heli time, his favourite flight is the one out of Anchorage because it means that he made it through alive and well. I'm beginning to see where he's coming from. However, that doesn't mean that I'm not planning on returning to Alaska in the future. As soon as this Tailgate is over, the planning for Tailgate Alaska 2011 will begin.

Winter Matters Bubble

Creative Commons License
This work by Marc is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Comments

You said it Marc, Tailgate is one of the best experiences I have had with snowboarding, as I did not get as much riding in this trip as I would have liked to the people that we have met and got to know made the trip worth every penny. Tailgate 2011 will be awesome I will deff get a few heli days with you! I think that staying in Valdez with a rental car is the best bet no more Clipper S!@# LOL.

Marc's picture

Get on it early enough and get in at Rendez Vous. It's only 16 miles, as opposed to 30 miles, away from Thompson Pass. Plus they have their own heli outfit right outside the door. On the other hand, most of the parties take place in Valdez.

I want to hit this up so bad, next year.

Marc's picture

Apparently last year there was about 50 people. This year there were more than two hundred. Next year they are expecting the attendance to double again. Definitely start planning for it soon.