SBC Skier has made its merry way north of our border to The Last Frontier and the world-renowned mecca of heli-skiing, Haines, Alaska, to cover the lone North American stop of the Freeride World Tour, along with prepping a feature on Haines for this Fall’s volume of SBC Skier Magazine.
In contrast to the drought-like winter that most of the west coast of The Great White North has been experiencing this season, the journey to Haines was as treacherous as its terrain, as Old Man Winter opted to maroon our crew and many others throughout parts of the Yukon and Alaska due to road and ferry closures as a result of a massive storm cycle that has rocked the region.
Upon arrival at the cozy Captain’s Choice Motel, we linked up with the Freeride World Tour staff, who are working their asses off day and night to overcome the immense amount of logistical challenges that they have impressively taken on to put on an event of this nature in one of the most rugged and unpredictable places on earth.
As we patiently wait for the erratic weather to clear and fickle snow pack to settle so this juggernaut of an event can begin, the 38 athletes (16 ski men, 8 ski women, 9 snowboard men and 5 snowboard women) have been keeping themselves busy in a variety of ways. Some have been jostling for position in the daily dog fight for heli bumps in an effort to get primed and ready for the big show, others have been touring to keep the legs warm, and a handful have taken a more laid back approach to the classic ‘hurry up and wait’ vibe that comes with heli-skiing in AK, via playing frisbee golf, hacky sack and taking in the eclectic local scene while tipping glasses with friendly and story-filled locals from all walks of life.
In addition to the finely turned three-ring circus that is the Freeride World Tour descending upon Haines, Tanner Hall and Dane Tudor have shown up to spend the next seven weeks filming for their respective projects, and will be prominently featured alongside Canadian ski icon Hugo Harrison, New Zealand’s big mountain superman Sam Smoothy and others in our feature on Haines.
The venue for the Freeride World Tour (which is coincidentally named ‘The Venue’ due to a Red Bull event that took place on the same face 10 years ago) is mind-boggling, and was revealed to the athletes on Sunday evening in preparation for the contest (which is scheduled to go down tomorrow), which will mark the first time the fabled Freeride World Tour has held an event in Alaska.
Along with some touring of our own, today we had the pleasure of taking a scenic flight past many of the classic and goose bump-inducing lines that Haines is so famous for, courtesy of Fly Drake, which is owned and operated by local legend Drake Olson, an ex-race car driver who moved out to Alaska 20 years ago and was the iconic Jeremy Jones’ pilot of choice while filming for Deeper.
Check out the gallery below for a glimpse of just some of the awe-inspiring mountains we saw, and be sure to keep tabs on sbcskier.com for more updates on our already unforgettable trip to Alaska, along with turning into freerideworldtour.com tomorrow, where you’ll be able to watch a live stream of the event beginning at 11 a.m. PST.