Cross-country Skiing on the Winner Creek Trail at Girdwood

January 9, 2007

A cold, clear, and windless January day in Girdwood, Alaska after a month of record snows for Alyeska Ski Resort at whose base the Winner Creek trail begins. Over 280 inches fell at the top of the resort in December of 2006! While not nearly that much fell at the level of the trail, there was plenty to challenge us. It was not so much a ski as a snow slog, but extremely scenic. As this is a boreal rain forest, I prefer the winter for doing this trail - no mud or mosquitos. The colors are also radically different, with shades of blue dominating.

Spruce conclave at minus 8° F
There are several openings in the thick spruce forest that allow relatively unobstructed views of the north face of the Alyeska Ski Resort. These openings are all old avalanche scars. The runout valley is visible on the mountainside.
Spruce tree branches can support massive snow loads, something to be aware of when going underneath them as the temperature rises. Several days after this hike we snow-shoed part of the Indian Pass trail when the temperature was in the high 20s. A common sound was a loud "WHUMP!!" as several tons of snow cascaded off a large spruce and its neighbors.
Looking north from an avalanche opening.
Looking north again with the cold blues of winter coming through.
Colleen looks for her skis.
Bonnie emerges from the forest primeval into a small clearing.
Time to cool down and defog the glasses. One can get surprisingly hot in a short time of skiing through deep snow.
Good view of the North Face of Alyeska Ski area.
When returning to the trail start, the sun was beginning to set producing some very nice forest/mountain contrast views.

Due to time limitations we did not make it all the way to the tram over Glacier Creek, but I did this hike on March 16, 2006 on snowshoes. The following pictures come from that trip.

Looking down from the bridge crossing Winner Creek gorge.
Another view from the bridge.
Winner Creek.
View of the canyon from the bridge.
The hand tram accross Glacier Creek. This is where my camera battery faded.