Wild Alpine / Ultima Thule – Alaska Ski! 2012

This year’s AK ski adventure was “all time.” I think that is the modern lingo for “best ever.” Aside from the fact that we skied perfect snow on all but 1 out of 7 mountain days, numerous descents in the 40-45 degree range on rarely (if ever) travelled, gigantic scale glaciers; and aside from the great company, excellent food, fine lodge hospitality, and breathtaking scenery, we did all of it in the heart of the most incredible and remote ski mountaineering range in the world – the Wrangells.

Check out these stats on the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve:

  • Largest National Park in U.S. (13.2 millon acres)
  • Contains 4 mountain ranges and 9 of the 16 highest peaks in the U.S.
  • Contains the largest concentration of 14,000’+ peaks in North America
  • Contains the largest glacier icefield, largest inland glacier, and the largest tidewater glacier on Earth
  • Features Mt. St. Elias, 4th highest mountain in North America, with greatest vertical relief of any peak on Earth. (18000′ in 10 miles)
  • Part of the largest Protected Landmass on Earth  (Wrangell-Saint Elias + Kluane in Canada)

Wild Alpine is the guide service we use that holds permits to this incredible Park. Ultima Thule is the lodge and outfitter that gave us fantastic, remote Alaskan accommodations, food, and flights. Paul Claus is one of the best bush pilots anywhere and I have been privileged to fly with him many times since 1996. Returning to this inspiring place after almost 10 years was a powerful experience for me. Like connecting to a very special time in life when mountains played a major role in forming my young adult perspective. Alaskan friends are friends for life and it was great to reconnect.

It seems that Taylor and Louise, the skiers on this trip, had a life changing experience as well. They walked around in utter disbelief of where we were the whole time, and it was indeed surreal to be having such a good time skiing in such an out there place. Louise was the true inspiration of the trip. At age 70 she kept up like a champ and showed that you are never too old for the spirit of adventure. She even skied a few very steep lines that were slightly outside of her comfort zone. What a courageous mountaineer! Taylor was so enthusiasic and it was such a pleasure to be able to share this landscape with him. He has become such a strong ski mountaineer over the last few years of trips we have enjoyed together. Both of these skiers may never experience this level of wilderness again and I am grateful for the opportunity to share turns in this special place with both of them.

Thanks to everyone who helped us pull this adventure off. Stay tuned for more ski trips in the Wrangell-St. Elias in the future.

See the photos and video from our trip which will give you more of the full story. Enjoy!
- Howie Schwartz, UIAGM Ski & Mountain Guide

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