For eighteen consecutive seasons, Reggie Crist has made the long migration to Haines, Alaska to guide some of the biggest mountain ski terrain on the planet. This season the experienced Alaskan heli guide dialed it back a bit due an injury, yet still lined it up for four of his Eddie Bauer teammates to score some of the best Alaskan lines in more than a decade. Facing challenges such as weather, consequence and the mind-numbing downtime of waiting for blue sky in the coastal environment, the trip provided the opening for Lexi duPont, Andy Mahre, KC Deane and Lynsey Dyer to slay some world-class lines while learnng from one of the masters of Alaskan spines in the process.
Captions by Reggie Crist, Images by Will Wissman, Yancy Caldwell and Tucker Patton
Top: Big skier small world. Reggie Crist above the legendary terrain of Haines, America. Next: The dark, moody awesomeness of the Chilkat Range.
Above: And so begins my annual heli-ski migration to Haines, Alaska as it has for the past 18 consecutive spring seasons however this year is different that all the rest. As I pull out of my driveway in Sun Valley, Idaho with my sprinter van packed to the gills with all the necessary operational equipment, I’m humbled by the fact that I haven’t skied in over a month. Fortunately the doctor seems to think that the non-displaced fracture of my fibula will be stable enough to ski in another 10 days, so I decide to buy myself some extra rehab time and take the scenic route north. With my pregnant wife, Lola, and our daughters, Jayden (7), and Stevie (3), we drive to Seattle and spend the night with friends before driving onto the ferry in Bellingham.
Above: The passage of time seems insignificant on the 350-foot cruise ship as we float past the bright city lights of Vancouver and my cell phone looses reception. The constant hum of the massive diesel engines makes it easy to relax as we peer outside the porthole of our tiny stateroom- efficiently equipped with toilet, shower, and two bunk beds. Sailing northward reveals the complex nature of the terrain, a labyrinth of waterways and mountains. It’s no wonder the state of Alaska subsidizes the Marine Highway as the only means for vehicles to access a number of small fishing and logging communities, such as Ketchikan, Wrangle, Petersburg and Sitka.
Above: Riding the rough water swells on the top deck. The boat is a virtual playground for our kids as they run around meeting new friends and disappearing below deck to the movie theater while Lola and I kick back on the stern soaking up the scenery. Sheltered by the wind, the back deck is ideal for setting up my spin bike and continuing my rehab. Peddling away on the back deck, I hear our names being called out over the loud speaker, ‘Reggie and Lola Crist, please come to the pursers desk!’ We scurry down the hallway to find our three-year old daughter, Stevie, in tears and sobbing, ‘I’m lost!’ Fortunately her older sister is consoling her as Lola and I try desperately to hold back our laughter.
Above: Embarking on the final leg of our journey we exit the Chatham Straits and round the corner heading up the Lynn Canal, a 90-mile stretch that represents the deepest fjord in North America. With over 2000 feet of water below and massive snow covered peaks above, the Canal gradually narrows until we reach the termination of the Inside Passage.
Above: Haines, Alaska is that magical locale where the road ends and the mountains and the ocean collide to form one of the greatest playground on planet earth. Similar to surfing’s North Shore of Oahu, Haines is the congregate for the world’s best skiers and snowboarders every spring. This season, I was fortunate to be joined by Eddie Bauer team mates, Andy Mahre, KC Dean, Lexi duPont, Lynsey Dyer, as well as fellow guide, Chris Coulter. Team chemistry always plays an important role and this crew represents the most diverse and talented group that I have ever worked with in these mountains. Interestingly, both Dyer and duPont have more than twice as much Alaskan experience than their male counterparts however Mahre and Dean bring a solid mix of style and skill.
Above: In typical Alaskan fashion, the trip started with a series of down days. As a result, we decided to get creative and try some new activities. Mahre and Dean grabbed the fat tire bikes and headed for the beach to have a wheelie contest, made easy by the low tide sand bar. The bird life was bustling with the arrival of the hooligan, a prolific bate fish that signify the change in season and the ensuing migration of salmon only weeks away. Lexi decided to take advantage of this small window of opportunity and wade into the river and snatch these slippery needle-nose fish with her bare hands. Further upstream, Dyer decided to set precedence by stand-up-paddling the Chilkat River. Just another ‘first’ for Dyer as she scouts her lines from the river.
Above: Lexi duPont, needle fishing, Alaska style.
Above: Lynsey Dyer braving a very chilly SUP session in Haines, America.
Above: Just about the time we started running out of down day activities, we were blessed with blue skies and cold temperatures. Without hesitation, Dupont and Dyer kicked off by cleaning their first lines of the trip while Mahre and Dean utilized their initial runs to re-calibrate their big mountain senses. Fortunately, the boys finished off the day by crushing four big lines, top to bottom, while filming from the helicopter. Here Dyer lines up her first line of the trip.
Above: Reggie Crist, jedi master, driving the line selection discussion.
Above: Andy Mahre and KC Deane hiking into some heavy terrain.
Above: Andy Mahre, re-calibrating his big mountain senses and making his first Alaskan heli turns of his ski career.
Eddie Bauer teammates KC Deane and Andy Mahre sharing the stoke on a go-fly day in Haines.
Above: Big skier small world. KC Deane finding some perspective above Haines.
Above: KC Deane walking a fine line in the Chilkat Range.
Above: Andy Mahre airing it out into the Alaskan abyss.
Above: Andy Mahre scoping pro-caliber lines.
Above: The momentum continued to build over the next couple of days as the team worked together to elevate the program. Establishing confidence in the snow conditions takes time but it was rewarding to watch Mahre finish off by air dropping onto a wall of spines. Systematically, he moved right to left, transferring from one spine to the next, allowing his slough to clear, before launching a solid air out the bottom. It was a fitting end to the Alaska season that reminded us all why we dedicate extended periods of time in hard to get to places, waiting for those precious moments that last a lifetime.
Above: Lynsey Dyer, once again feeling immersed in the mountains.
Learn more about how you can ski Alaskan spines via Reggie Crist at Stellar Media.
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