I don’t like being cold. I was born and raised in Alaska, and that means I am smart enough to know how to stay warm. Thus, I thought a large tent with a wood stove would be the perfect solution for a backcountry base-camp for skiers. I have a Weather Port and it makes an excellent portable shelter that would be large enough to service a company of four skiers (10’x12′). I have been planning this for some time, and I loaded the plane on Friday with the Weather Port and appropriate gear. I also managed to squeeze in my VERY pregnant, and awesome wife, to help me set it up. Samantha loves getting outside even more than I do, so she is always happy to jump on-board.
We headed into the mountains and arrived at the spot that I had calculated most suitable for my operation. Much to my dismay there were all ready ski tracks all over the slope with several happy skiers cuttin’ freshies right before my eyes. I almost threw-up. I was bummed, actually, I was totally depressed. Samantha was very understanding, and helped me work through my ill-feelings as she explained to me that, “they weren’t bad people just because they took my ski spot”. I did not totally agree. I motored back towards the house with a super cub still heavily laden with my temporary shelter, an understanding wife, and a depressed pilot/skier.
I unloaded the Cub and went to work on my house, and tried not to think about it. There are lots of places to ski in the mountains surrounding us, but this place really was perfect, and I did not have the gas to go motoring around looking for new spots. Also, the Cub was heavily loaded, and in no configuration to go pioneering new spots. I almost gave the whole idea up as I pounded nails, cut boards, and penciled measurements. Then my buddy Rhett called and all the emotions came back and before I knew what was happening I was loading the Weather Port back into the Super Cub and we were headed for a new spot that had never seen a ski track.
We left early the next morning, and even before we took off I was leery about the winds aloft forecast, and the storm that was supposed to be moving in later in the day. I got a pi-rep from a Cessna 182 pilot who claimed calm air at 5000′, so I went for it. It was a smooth climb up to 7,000 feet, but as we approached the knife edge ridge I was going to land behind I saw snow ripping off the cornice as the wind pounded the ground below us. It was a no-brainer, easy decision, as I pointed the nose of the plane away from the granite and toward calmer air as a massive down-draft forced us to loose 800 feet. Doggone-it! Shot down AGAIN! I was running on minimum fuel to save weight, and we did not have enough for a plan “B”.
Then I remembered there was a spot in the Talkeetna Mountains that I had landed at earlier in the week and thought the skiing might be decent. So, I punched it into the GPS and it showed 18 minutes to destination. I triple checked our fuel and decided we had enough to make it there, and then home, with reserve. So, we flew directly to my old landing site. The sky was clear blue and the winds were less than 5 mph. We left the Weather Port in the plane and headed out for some fun.
We had landed at 6000′ and the conditions were actually really fun. It was an easy skin up, and only required boot packing in a few short spots. On top of the mountain the wind was blowing about 25 mph and it made me wonder what the winds were doing down at the plane. We made one run and decided it would be utter foolishness to turn around now so we skinned up for another. We made it back down to the plane at about 1430 and the winds were still calm there, so we headed out for another run. As we headed up on the 3rd run the sun went behind a high cloud layer and we started loosing our light. We enjoyed the view from the ridge for a few minutes and then headed for the plane. The wind was picking-up and it was evident that it was time to go home.
We took off still loaded with the Weather Port and gear and headed for the windy city. The winds at Palmer had shifted 90 degrees and were blowing out of 110 at 20 knots gusting 30 and it was a little turbulent on final. I dropped Rhett off in Palmer and then headed for my house with the plane. There was a weather advisory in affect for sever turbulence at low levels, and I’ll admit it was a bumpy 5 minute flight, and the landing at my house was … interesting.
I’m done with the Weather Port idea… for now. But I still think it would be a lot of fun and if anyone is interested let me know. I am going to spend as much time as I can working on my house as I eagerly anticipating meeting our first child. Samantha is due this week. Boy or Girl? What’s it gonna be? I change my mind everyday.
The video from the day of skiing.