Chugach National Forest
Heli-Ski Alaska’s Our-of-Reach Peaks
Ten miles up the Rude River Valley from Cordova, Alaska, sits one of America’s most pristine backcountry ski zones: a 12,000-acre expanse of the Chugach National Forest, full of pyramid peaks and velvety powder. It’s prime heli-skiing terrain. But since the range has long been a nonmotorized zone, its runs remained untouched until 2011, when a local outfitter, Points North Heli-Adventures, secured an exclusive permit for heli-skiing within the district.
For a weeklong outing, Points North flies you into a camp just outside the nonmotorized area, surrounded by real-deal terrain, including an 800-foot spine wall called Dano’s that drops like an elevator shaft. Then you climb or heli-ski whatever your heart desires, following guides who know every nook and cranny. When I visited a few years ago, we ate halibut, braised beef, and blueberry cobbler; got to name two first descents; and lived through a brutal storm. In 24 hours, we endured 40 inches of snow, then, over the next three days, got 80 inches more, delaying our departure. Being stranded in such a remote spot freaked me out, sure. We had to shovel off our tents three times a day to keep from asphyxiating and eat turnip noodle soup for calories. But, after a week back in civilization, I began to regret that the conditions had ever cleared. —Devon O’Neil
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