Sizing Up a First Descent on Alaska's Rainbow Peak

Credit: Photograph by Will Wissman

Before former Olympic skier Reggie Crist made the first-ever descent of Rainbow Peak — the tallest mountain in striking distance of heli-skiing mecca Haines, Alaska — he spent a few days making turns on nearby chutes to test the conditions. "You're skiing glaciated terrain, which means you're above the tree line," says Crist, 46, who has guided ski tours in Alaska for a decade. "There are cracks and crevasses everywhere, so there's always a threat of avalanche."


In this shot, Crist is standing at the top of a "test run," with Rainbow looming across the ridge. "The hardest part is not getting overly excited or letting emotions get the best of you," he says of dropping into uncertain conditions. "It's all about just taking a deep breath and doing what you know how to do." He and his ski partner, Scott Sundberg, spent that night camping at 3,500 feet on Rainbow, then hiked another 3,000 feet to the summit for their historic run. "I waited an entire lifetime for those conditions," Crist says. "It was the best four days of skiing of my life."