posted by Aaron Lebowitz on April 15, 2022
It’s hard to put into words the pure magic we experienced during our two weeks in Alaska, but here’s my best take at it in the form of a daily recap.
This trip felt fueled by serendipity. Alaska already carries a feeling of awe, so add onto that genuine, enriching friendships, immaculate weather, and perfect snow conditions, and we found ourselves a receipt for perfection. We kept being at the right place at the right time. From the moment we got picked up at the Anchorage Airport by our friends Guy and Scotty, we knew we were in for a good time. Arriving somewhere in the dark is always a trip, as your surroundings all blend together in darkness and the jet lag confuses the mind and body. We crashed out the moment we got to Scotty’s in hopes of getting some rest before our first day in Alaska.
Day 1 March 21st: Our first morning we woke up to blue skies and the caked peaks of the Chugach mountains surrounding Girdwood. We quickly learned that mornings are typically on the slower side in Alaska, as the days are long this time of year and there really isn’t a rush to be anywhere when you can ski till 8pm. Unless, that is, there is fresh powder to be had. We went out for breakfast at Hightower Pub, where Aaron and Scotty ordered Loco Moco and myself and Guy got some killer breakfast sandwiches. After breakfast, we went to the Mercantile Market and got some items for a summit charcuterie board. We packed up our touring gear and hit the trail, hiking out to a nearby peak. From the summit, we had sweeping views of Alyeska Resort, the ocean, and the surrounding peaks. We indulged in our snacks, spread out on my snowboard, then cruised the long run all the way back to the cars. We piled into Scotty’s truck and went out to the ocean to check out the Bore Tide, a natural phenomena that occurs in the Cook Inlet where a long tidal wave comes in twice a day, and those who are brave enough can surf one of the longest waves of their lives.
Day 2 March 22nd: The weather was pretty funky the next day, so we slept in and had a later start, drinking coffee and watching the snow begin to fall. We moved our things from Scotty’s house in Desi’s yurt, where we would stay for the next few days. We decided to go for a drive to check out the odd town of Whittier. We grabbed some crepes from the Crepe Food Truck before hitting the road, highly recommended if you are ever in Girdwood. We took in the scenery along the way and stopped at Portage Lake. Guy works on a salmon fishing boat out of Whitter, so he took us to the marina to check out some of the boats he works on and give us some stories about life on the sea for 100 days. We read up on some history of Whittiter at the local museum before cruising back to Girdwood.
Day 3 March 23rd: Our first day of riding at Alyeska was incredible, especially because our good friend Desi Sherwood was our guide, who was born and raised at that mountain. A life long skier, we convinced him to hop on an Elevated Snowboard, and his beard was covered in pow and a huge smile ran across his face by the end of the day. The snow fell steady throughout the day, and we ended up getting a sleeper pow day, scoring fresh runs with barely anyone else there by the afternoon. That night, we had a big fam dinner at Desi’s house, and we got to indulge in some moose tenderloins from a hunt Desi did back in October. It was some of the leanest, most tender meat I’ve ever had, accompanied by sauteed veggies and salad. We shared stories and wine over the dinner table and all felt entirely satiated by the end of the evening, and ready for some sleep knowing that the next day was anticipated to be a big pow day.
Day 4 March 24th: Holy powder day! We absolutely scored at Alyeska today. With 19 inches overnight, the mountain was fully covered in light, fluffy snow. The local energy at Alyeska was high and welcoming, with a snowball war starting in the lift line as we anxiously awaited Chair 4 opening. The lefties had music bumping from speakers and everyone was frothing to get in fresh lines. Once they finally started loading Chair 4, it was so entertaining watching everyone bomb rush down the fresh snow. We scored some epic turns and everyone’s faces were caked in snow and smiles when they got back to the chairlift. We saw a handful of people started lining up at the gate for the North Face, an epic double black diamond run that had yet to open that day. We joined in on the vibe and got in line, with only a handful of people in front of us. The Natural Selection crew was in town after their event, and we hang out with Travis Rice and his crew in line, all getting amped for what was sure to be a run of a lifetime. When they opened up the gate, it was every person for themselves. People were disappearing into puffs of snow, and I was surrounded by the sound of hoots, hollers, and laughter. Everyone was absolutely frothing when we got to the bottom, and we hopped on the gondola and scored another fresh run before it was totally tracked out. We made our way to the Bore Tide bar at the top of the mountain and all celebrated an incredible day with a beer and fries.
Day 5 March 25th: We took today to prep for our journey up to Thompson Pass the following day. We got all our gear dialed in, did laundry, and made shopping and to do lists. Aaron got a massage from our lovely local friend Alexa Ray, then we all went out for sushi at Sakura Asian Bistro. We had an incredible dinner with all our dear friends from Girdwood, the perfect way to top our stay in this slice of heaven in Alaska.
Day 6 March 26th: Off to Thompson Pass for Tailgate! We ran a bunch of errands in Anchorage, filled up two carts of groceries at Costco, and picked up our RV and our friend Katrina Devoure. We began the five hour drive to Thompson Pass, which has to be one of the most beautiful drives I’ve been on to date. You pass through glaciers, jaw dropping mountains, and icy blue rivers. I’ve never seen mountains like this in my entire life! We got into the Tailgate lot just as the sun was setting, so we got to catch a glimpse of the surrounding peaks we would be snowboarding for the next week. We got all settled and cozy into our camper and had an early night.
Day 7 March 27th: I couldn't have asked for a better first day up at Thompson Pass. My good friend from Tahoe, Ian McLeod, has been going up to Thompson Pass since 09, so he’s no stranger to the goods to be had out that way. He stopped by our RV as I was getting my touring gear on and told me to get on the sled. He wanted to be the first one to show me that magic that was out there. Aaron had taken off earlier that morning to score a heli day with the Tsaina Lodge, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go snowmobile with Ian. He took me out to Cracked Ice, a mellow zone up Gully 3 that has options for some ridge runs or some steeper lines down the face. We had a solid crew of experienced snowmobilers and veterans to Tailgate, so I was just soaking in their knowledge and stoke for the area. We scored about seven pow laps before the clouds started rolling in and milking out the visibility. We cruised back to the parking lot and all relished in an incredible day with cold beers and a delicious dinner of moose pasta and salmon salad. We walked around the parking lot and checked out all the vibes people brought, including a bathtub as a fire pit, an ice castle with a tunnel slide for an exit, and a full DJ dome across the street in the One Love lot. We did some dancing and made new friends on the dance floor.
Day 8 March 28th: Our first down day at Thompson Pass due to some snow and low visibility. We had a slower morning, complete with breakfast sandwiches, a few french presses of coffee, and some massage via the buffer that Alexa brought. If you’ve never been buffed before, and yes, by a car buffer, we highly recommend giving it a try. It’s pretty much the pre-massage gun. Guy then doubled as out to the Worthington Glacier, which is icy blue and absolutely breathtaking. We hung out for a while before snowboarding back to the parking lot. We hit a flat section and lost speed, but Guy tied a rope to the back of the snowmobile and towed us through the flats, which was an adventure in itself. When we got back to the lot, we ran into the Pit Viper boys, Justin Lati and Hayden Price, who were handing out Pit Vipers and fake parking tickets. We hit it off with them instantly and spent the rest of the day hanging with them and spreading the stoke of Pit Vipers and buffers around the parking lot.
Day 9 March 29th: This was by far one of my favorite days of our entire trip. We awoke to blue skies and everyone frothing to get out to the fresh snow that fell yesterday. There is a crazy buzz of anxious energy that is palpable when it's blue out. Everyone is scrambling to get their gear together and figure out their crew for the day. We were planning on going for a tour, but then Lati and Hayden swung by with two snowmobiles and offered to take Aaron and I out, which we happily accepted. We doubled out to Bro Bowl, which is a super fun run with a wide open bowl at the top and then a small rocky zone you need to thread before cruising through another open fan of powder. We scored the first lines through it, then cruised over to Skatepark, which has to be one of my favorite runs in Thompson Pass. It was a six minute long run through a perfect gully, with endless options for slashing left and right banks. We party rode it, all weaving together and hollering the whole way down. The boys retrieved the sled then we cruised back to camp. Right when we got back, Ian was waiting with his sled, and convinced me to cruise out for a sunset run on the other side of the highway. We went up Gully 3 in hopes of hiking up Python, but eight people had already begun the boot pack. We changed our plans to go up the Berlin Wall, but once we got to the approach, we realized we were short on time and the approach was more technical than anticipated, so we ended up just cruising down Nick’s Gully which runs alongside Gully 3. It was a good lesson in remaining flexible to constantly changing plans and conditions, and we still scored an epic run to finish off another mind blowing day at Thompson Pass.
Day 10 March 30th: Another blue bird day at Thompson Pass and our crew was stoked to get out on our splitboards. We hiked up behind Bro Bowl, stripping down to our skin on the way up as the day was blazing hot. It felt really good to move the body after a few days of snowmobiling and enjoy the sunshine. Aaron was able to score a ride with one of our parking lot neighbors, so he got a couple epic laps near Hoodo Glacier on the Log. We took a long run all the way back to the parking lot. Our friend Ted started cracking open beers when Lati and Hayden arrived at our RV, offering to take us out for a sunset rip, which we couldn’t say no to. Myself and our friend Emily put our boots back on and went out for two runs down the face of Gully 3, which held incredible snow and ended up being unreal runs. We finished our second lap just as the sun was setting, it was truly out of a dream. That night, we saw the Northern Lights go off. We were with several friends who were born and raised Alaskans, and they said it was some of the best lights they’ve seen, so you know it's good! The whole lot was hollering at the otherworldly green dance the sky was giving us. It truly is a sight to see.
Day 11 March 31st: Aaron was able to get in on another heli day with the Tsaina Lodge, which was an even longer day than his first time out. They got close to 12 runs on some epic terrain, from long gullies to some steeper faces. He brought out the Mega Fish and was able to rip up all the different types of terrain they were able to access. Guy and Emily headed back to Girdwood, and Alexa and Ted went down to Valdez for a day of cat skiing, so it was just me in the RV. I relished in a bit of solo time, cleaned up the space, and rested from the last few days of insane riding.
Day 12 April 1st: I got to explore some new zones today and if Alaska hadn’t already blown my mind, today really solidified it. We had a slower morning, then Aaron took off with my best friend Danny Kern to get some drone footage down some gullies on the Log. Ian picked me up and we headed down the hill a few miles to our friend Phillipe’s chalet, which is a beautiful cabin that you can only get to via snowmobile this time of year. We geared up and headed out to The Books, which is a notoriously mind blowing zone in the Thompson Pass area with endless options for riding. We boot packed up a shoot and got to ride down an untouched face. We then took some sled laps on a mellow ridge. I got to snowboard about six mini putt laps while Phillipe and Ian ripped pow turns on their sleds. We cruised back to the chalet then made our way up to the lot for some dinner. A few DJ’s played that night so we went out dancing, the perfect end to a lovely day up on Thompson Pass.
Day 13 April 2nd: Had another big day out in the mountains of Alaska. Aaron linked up with two guys who shoot drone footage, so he went out on the Log to get some more clips through the Skatepark gullies. My day started off with some fun laps on Gully 2 with Danny, shooting photos for Elevated. We then cruised over to a zone beyond Gully 3 called RFS with our other Tahoe friends Blake Hunter and Nial Romanek. It wasn’t until we started the bootpack up to the peak did I ask what RFS stood for, which turns out is Really Fucking Steep. We got to the summit and peaked over the edge, only to see the first turn of the run and then it disappeared over a blind roll over. I was nervous as hell but was committed, so I said my prayers and dropped in. The first few turns were smooth, but then some sluff swept me off my feet and carried me a few yards down the slope. It finally let up and I was able to ride away, but it was scary as hell. The boys hiked back up the mountain to hit a natural feature, where Nial went huge on a frontside 360. Danny and I rode into the sunset, which was the perfect way to top off our day.
Day 14 April 3rd: Woke up feeling so exhausted from the big days of riding we’ve had nearly every day out here, but still wanted to get some turns in for our last day. Aaron took the day off to rest and recover, and he ended up discovering a secret hot tub on the river and got his signature soak in. I went out with some friends who just got into town from Mammoth. We toured out to a zone behind Python, but I ended up turning around and riding the gully back to the lot because I was too tired to make it up the peak. We had friends over for dinner and tried to eat as much of our food as possible, because we still had so much leftover. The Northern Lights made another appearance and we admired them from the roof of the RV and had an early evening.
Day 15 April 4th: As much as I didn’t want to leave Alaska, our trip has come to an end. We packed up the RV this morning and hit the road, lucky enough to have clear skies for the beautiful drive back to Anchorage. We ran some errands in town and got our RV back to the rental shop and headed to the airport. Waiting at the terminal for our red eye flight, my heart was bursting with gratitude and feeling so full for this unreal trip. From the people, the places, and everything in between, we couldn’t have asked for a better time in Alaska. I look forward to getting back up there next spring. Till next time!
For more on this adventure, listen to Brian Murray interview Elevated Founder Aaron on his approach to riding Alaska mountains, Elevated Snowboards he chose and riding style.