Complete with tuxedos and formal gowns, it was the 25th annual Anchorage Nordic Ski Patrol's Champagne Brunch at Hatcher Pass, Alaska. As with many Alaska venues, it's at the end of the road to the Independence Gold Mine. Gray granite peaks rise above the old mine, now an Alaska State Park; surrounded by glaciers and snowfields, it is a popular venue for Alaska's backcountry skiers.
We put the climbing skins on our skis and ascended about 45 minutes up from the Hatchers Pass parking lot to the large "amphitheater" between the north side of Marmot Peak and the south side of Microdot.
It looked like miners on the Chilcoot trail, as the skiers ascended to the party site. The early birds dug out a long table in the winter snow, about 30 feet long, with bench seats covered with foam pads. Checkered tablecloths started filling with potluck dinners: everything from ham sandwiches to pumpkin cheesecake. But everything was washed down with glasses of champagne.
Amy in suit, and Heidi in a dirndl. It was formal attire, everything from long gowns to tuxedos, although being in Alaska, Carhartts were also seen.
Marcie shows me some femine leg!
And for me, the main reason to come is to get my photo taken surrounded by beautiful women: Colleen, Cynthia, Yours Truly, Rebecca!!!!
Once the participants had drunk enough courage, the lines of skiers continued to snake up to the untracked snow couloirs above the feast. Some chose to climb Microdot and telemark down the volcanic-ash covered snow slopes facing the sun. Mount Redoubt had erupted dozens of times in the past month, so a fine layer of glass covered the melting snow. It would certainly polish the bottoms of the skis. Others climbed the north slopes and skied fresh powder on the steep slopes under menacing cornices. All the skiers carried avalanche beacons, probe poles and small shovels in their packs, because at this time of the year, climax avalanches are common in the mountains, and their signs are everywhere. Just the previous week snowmachiners had been killed in an avalanche.
Cynthia takes off her climbing skins and prepares to ski. It's a steep run!
And she bends her knee in a beautiful Telemark turn! Into the snowstorm and the flat light of the afternoon.
Back at the party, the clouds have descended, but the mood is cheerful. We are high on mountains; we are high on skiing; and we are high on champagne and brunch!