Is it worse to say you want a drink, or you need a drink?
Sometimes I want a drink. And, sometimes I really, really need one.
Facing down a thousand foot, near-vertical ski slope, peering into the depths of the glacial abyss, it was both.
Thus goes the ongoing story of my weak week trek into the frozen frontier of Prince William Sound and the surreal setting that is Points North Heli-Adventures.
My first foray into telling the tale of my Alaskan heli-skiing adventure was intended to give an overview from a lofty perch at 38,000’ in our Alaska Airlines 737, as we descended down to sea level and the A-Star helicopters waiting to whisk us to the freshly coated, untracked powder-covered slopes.
The story revealed, what I lacked in skiing skills (yes, that is me in the picture), I attempted to make up with a little leg hugging of our cute, redheaded heli-guide.
In my subsequent post, I hinted at the physical and mental stamina required to ski at this level, and by hinted, I admitted being basically bereft of both.
My woeful performance alone would not explain the impressive abundance of alcoholic beverages nightly in NEFCO mess hall, which topped the tables like the snow blanketing the nearby slopes.
Since the vast majority—in other words, everyone but me—displayed the requisite prowess of boarding and skiing skills, their consumption was clearly more celebratory than consoling in nature.
I would tell myself that I only drank to mitigate the pain of the marred meniscus of my right knee, and hoped that I wouldn’t appear in the next Warren Miller blooper reel of blundering buffoons.
All this is not to say that the skiing conditions are always easy-peasy on the perfect pow. It may be surprising to the uninitiated, but this is not a snow-covered Disneyland-like winter playground where everything is safe and predictable, nor would most of us wish it were.
Just like everywhere else on the planet, the snow up there sometimes develops a hard crust, and sometimes the lighting becomes flat and you can’t see where you are going, and sometimes the depth of cover is less than desired and reveals where the rocks live in summer.
To wit, here is a short YouTube video, taken during our time there, as my new buddy Pawel “narrates” the conditions he encountered on one particular run.
(It also shows the area above the snow, where the helicopters live and play, and it is not just the skiers who can’t always see where they are going.)
Given ever-increasing stories of the loss of artic ice, thankfully, currently there is no lack of glacial ice in Cordova, as our last “heli-stop” of the day was to pick some up for the evening’s applications.
Those are chunks of it on the slope, just outside of the A-Star windshield.
Our heli-guide is outside the ship trying to find a large piece he can physically manhandle into the basket, yet not so heavy that it requires the pilot to offload my fat ass so the copter can lift off the glacier.
Back at the lodge, reducing it to a usable (whiskey glass) size took a suitable weapon of mass reduction.
Given the uncertainty that Climate Strange© has ordained on the future snow situation for any given place and time, you just have to be prepared for whatever might portend.
I am not sure what pre-arrangements the wife-person might have made with the nice folks up at Points North, but they seem to have been prepared for my questionable skiing curriculum vitae and whatever final disposition of me might become necessitated, with just one “muliple-purpose rescue device.”
Hopefully, it comes equipped with a nice bottle of single malt to see me off.