BASE CAMP TOURING WEEK
Alaskan wilderness ski exploration.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is home to some of the biggest and most remote skiing terrain in the world. With 13 million acres comprised of three entire mountain ranges, it is a land of never-ending ski touring and ski mountaineering possibilities – only accessible by ski plane. On this 8 day expedition we establish a base camp deep in the range that serves as a launching point for exploration in all directions.
We fly into the range from Chitina, AK with legendary pilot Paul Claus of Ultima Thule Outfitters. From our base camp we set off on full day tours with light packs, returning to the comforts of camp at the end of each day. Living in the heart of this kingdom, we become intimately familiar with the surrounding terrain — arcing turns on long wide open glaciers, ascending aesthetic ridge lines, booting up couloirs, high fiving on summits, and enjoying skiing in its many forms.
April offers some of the best weather and ski conditions in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, with long high pressure systems and cold, snow-preserving temperatures.
A number of operators in Alaska offer touring camps in the Chugach and Alaska Range that may appear similar to this one. Some of these camps are set in one location with groups cycling in and out of the same camp. In April this can mean arriving to a landscape full of the previous group's tracks. Other camps operate in a busy location with many other groups of climbers and skiers in the same small area.
Each of our base camp trips is its own expedition to a pristine, blank slate. True wilderness. Where we fly, expect to see no ski tracks or human presence for that matter. Just our group, and maybe the occasional wolverine tracks.
Our experience in the Wrangells and partnership with Ultima Thule Outfitters gives us the upper hand in knowing where to go, and what to expect when we get there. This is a massive area with no avalanche center and limited weather resources. During the spring season, our guides are out in these mountains on a daily basis collecting snow and weather observations at our Tebay Lodge operation (also in Wrangell-St. Elias NP).
Meet in Chitina, AK, about a 4.5 hour drive from Anchorage. After final gear sorting and preparations, we fly into the mountains. The zone we choose will be a collaborative decision between the guides and our pilot. The possibilities are truly endless. Arrive, setup camp, and review mountain skills including companion rescue, glacier skiing, etc.
Full days of ski touring in the heart of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, exploring terrain in all different directions from our camp.
Fly back to Chitina, return to Anchorage. Outbound flights from Anchorage should be scheduled for no earlier than 10pm on this evening, or the following day.
Fly into Anchorage Int'l Airport. We recommend arriving one day prior to the start of the trip. There are numerous hotels in close proximity to the airport. Our meeting point is the Chitina airport, about a 4.5 hour drive from Anchorage. The most economical option for getting to Chitina is to rent a car for the week. The roads are paved and typically dry by this time of year.
This trip involves sleeping in a tent on snow and living in a remote winter environment. "Expedition life" minus the heavy backpack. With the right gear, this is a totally comfortable existence and a special part of the experience. If a heated lodge is more your speed, check out our Tebay Lodge program.
We welcome skiers from a wide range of backgrounds, ages, and experience levels. For the safety and success of the group, as well as your own enjoyment, it is important that you come to the Wrangells physically and mentally prepared for adventure skiing in a big mountain environment:
You should be a solid advanced skier, confident skiing ungroomed black diamond terrain at the ski area, and capable of getting down double black diamond runs.
You should be proficient skiing in a variety of backcountry snow conditions across different types of terrain. We seek out high quality snow whenever possible (cold powder, smooth corn), but quite often a day of touring in the big mountains requires travel through trickier conditions for parts of the day (wind board, refrozen snow, breakable crust, etc).
You should be experienced and proficient with uphill ski touring skills: skinning, kick turns, transitions, efficiency, booting with skis on your pack, etc.
Excellent physical fitness is required. A typical day of touring might involve 4000-5000+ vertical feet of ascent, mostly in the form of skinning.
Previous mountaineering experience is not required for this trip.
8 days in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
6+ days of guided skiing
Ski plane flights
High quality meals
Group equipment: tents, stoves, rescue/emergency gear, sat phone
Transportation from Anchorage to Chitina
Personal equipment (see gear list)
Personal snacks and adult beverages
8 skiers max : 2 guides
April 16-23, 2023
Apr 14-21, 2024
Custom weeks are available for private groups. Inquire for additional info.