Alaska Heli Ski Snow Conditions

The Perfect Storm

Chad Colby 083

The best thing about Heli-Boarding in Valdez, Alaska is the perfect snow conditions. Well, OK, you’re right; let’s not forget about the mind-blowing scenery, the perfect steep angles of the pointy mountains and the endless runs down the mile-long glaciers. So, one of the best things about Heli-Boarding and Heli-Skiing in Valdez, Alaska is the perfect snow conditions.

Super-dry powder is what you want, right? Doesn’t everyone? Well, we got lots of it. But the way it gets so super-dry might just surprise you. It’s kind of like a caterpillar to a butterfly, or a frog to a prince metamorphosis. Unlike the arid, high-elevation conditions in Colorado or Switzerland, where the snow comes out of the sky super-dry, and the avalanches regularly break loose like busloads of escaping convicts; the Chugach Range in Southern Alaska has a special process that we call ‘freeze-drying’.

As some of the largest low-pressure systems in the world roll up from the largest body of water in the world, these perfect storms don’t seem so perfect when they are pounding down feet of snow for days on end. It can snow over three feet at sea level and even more up in the mountains around Thompson Pass. But as all this snow comes in from the ocean, you can image that it will wetter than a dog left in the rain.

Heli-skiing and heli-boarding in Valdez, Alaska wouldn’t be so damn fun and so damn popular if the slopes were smeared with Sierra Cement or Cascade Concrete the whole time, now would it? But the truth is, it gets delivered that way, and what happens in the next few days is the ‘perfect’ part of the storm.

So, after the clouds get blown North and the skies clear, the night-time temperatures drop way below 0°F, and here’s when the magic begins. Seeing how the air above the snowpack is way colder than snow itself- and that heat rises- the moisture just makes like Elvis and leaves the building. The next day is sunny, and you find yourself flying around in a high-powered helicopter, aka Heli-Skiing in Alaska.

And unlike the wet muck back in town at sea level, you find yourself riding the greatest snow on Earth, freeze-dried AK powder. And the real bonus to this is that the avalanche stability, 24 hours after the storm has ended, is way better than that of the Rockies or the Alps, because the snowpack still has all that bonded, moist snow deep in it. It’s just the top two feet that has dried out, and morphed from a caterpillar to a butterfly.

But don’t believe me. Come up and see it for yourself. And while the snow is getting freeze-dried and conditions are getting as good as it gets, you might very well be treated to a night-time showing of the Northern Lights, the greenish lightshow of the Gods.

Heli-Skiing and Heli-Boarding in the Chugach Range of Valdez, Alaska; as Good as it Gets!