Backcountry Skiing News Roundup — RIP Alaskan Ski Train and F-H Hut

Post by blogger | September 25, 2009      

As of this writing it appears the Grandview Ski Train in Alaska has been canceled. Talk about a tragedy, since the 1950s this historic train has been running a trip or two every year in early spring from Anchorage to the Kenai Mountains. I got to go in 1996. One of the best mountain “culture” experiences of my life. Check it out.

Grandview Ski Train, Alaska.

Grandview Ski Train, Alaska. You train under glaciers and towering peaks, then go skiing.

At the whistle stop, the train disgorges something like 600 skiers into full-on Alaskan wilderness. No lifts. A unique form of mechanized access! You climb and ski the surrounding mountains for the day.

Alaskan ski train at Grandview.

Alaskan ski train at Grandview.

If you make it back to the train on time, you ride back to Anchorage and party in style, perhaps capping things off with a dance in the Polka car packed with so many crazy dancing “slam polka” Alaskans you wonder why the thing doesn’t jump the tracks. Oh, and if you’re late getting back to the train, they leave a survival kit for you. More here.

Slam polka in the baggage car.

Slam polka in the swaying baggage car. Air freshener is a nice touch, as are the open doors looking out on AK wilderness.

Sad news is that one of our central Colorado backcountry ski huts burned down. Fowler-Hilliard was located in the vicinity of Copper Mountain Resort and Leadville. It provided a nice lodging location to access a variety of moderate backcountry skiing, although ongoing issues with huge amounts of snowmobile and snowcat use could taint the experience. Plans are to of course rebuild the hut, and I’d imagine it’ll rise out of the ashes as something even nicer than the first one. It sounds like lighting might have been the match, but who knows? No one saw it burn.

Yes, folks are skiing powder in Colorado. Fanatic ski alpinist Jordan White and his crew glissed the boot-top alpine fluff up at Montezuma Basin. For access, they 4-wheeled the historic Montezuma Basin jeep trail. I’ve always got to emphasize how cool that road is, and how unusual. It’s one of the only roads in Western Colorado that provides access to a permanent snowfield at the base of a 14,000 foot peak, yet does so in a primitive fashion that adds to the fun and adventure with some moderately challenging driving.

We’re catching some movies at The Meeting film conflab in Aspen this weekend. Reports on that next week. Meanwhile, ski-u!


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10 Responses to “Backcountry Skiing News Roundup — RIP Alaskan Ski Train and F-H Hut”

  1. Tavis September 26th, 2009 9:53 am

    Bummer about the train, that looks very unique and quite epic. Btw – Is that Dennis Miller on the left in the picture? 🙂

  2. Helmut September 26th, 2009 3:01 pm

    Sad story of the train in Alaska. When I was a little kid I got a children’s book about trains as a gift. A part of the book was about going skiing by train. Ever since skiing is somewhat related to trains for me: leaving the city by train in the morning and arriving in a snow covered little village in the mountains. Carrying the skis over the station platform etc.

    Last Easter I went with the train to a nearby mountain. It was already hot in the city (about 20 degree Celsius) and the people at the railway station stared at me and my equipment. Obviously they thought I was a complete fool (some of them spoke it out loudly :)). It was one of my best ski days of the entire season though (perfect firn, steep couloir … you get the picture).

  3. Mark W September 26th, 2009 8:14 pm

    My polka skills have waned since learning them well in middle school PE class, but I’ll bet I could muster a few rousing dances after a long day skiing. Sorry to hear the train will be canceled. And I’m sorry to hear about the hut burning. I love that terrain over near Copper Mountain.

  4. Njord September 27th, 2009 8:54 am

    Double bummer!

  5. Justin Wilcox September 27th, 2009 8:28 pm

    Hey Lou, this is completely off topic (but I don’t know where else to ask)… What do you know about Schoeller C_Change fabric? Their claims are pretty impressive, but hardly anyone (at least in the U.S.) uses it. Is the stuff for real? Seems like Mammut is using it more than anyone else. I wonder where it falls into the waterproof breathable spectrum compared to Gore-tex, event and various soft shells…

  6. Lou September 28th, 2009 7:28 am

    Justin, Cloudveil uses that in their Koven Plus, which I tested as one of my bombproof shells when things get really harsh, as in winter ascents of 14ers and stuff like that. The fabric does as promised, only problem is it sometimes does it too well. For example, when it gets really cold it gets stiff and noisy, more so than normal shell type fabrics. Thus, I think it’s a truly excellent fabric for a 3-season shell, but might not be the ideal fabric for a winter shell in colder climates.

    Thing is, most people don’t have a quiver of shells like we do at WildSnow World Headquarters. So in that case, C_Change could be very nice in a jacket, and you’d just accept the less than ideal feel when it gets really cold.

  7. Mark W September 28th, 2009 8:30 am

    Will you be testing the Ski Trab Stelvio Light XL? 6 pounds per pair sounds awfully light for a ski that is 90 mm underfoot.

  8. Cory September 28th, 2009 9:02 am

    What was the winning caption?

  9. Lou September 28th, 2009 10:00 am

    Cory, thanks for asking, check back tomorrow.

  10. Cory September 28th, 2009 10:41 am

    Many thanks Lou…while I know at times I can be a bit of a thorn, Wildsnow is the only website that keeps me goin’ through the white months. Quality and class all the way around. Keep up the good work.

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