Bluebird in the Front Range
On a clear day in Anchorage, the Front Range is breathtaking. The peaks only rise to 5,000 feet, but they are broad, alpine, and so close you can practically touch them. Last year, I skied the more famous destinations like Hatcher and Thompson Pass but did not ski in the Front Range. This time around, my partners had less free time to travel and the Front Range had a healthy, stable snowpack, so it seemed like the right time to adventure closer to Anchorage.
Wolverine Peak is a classic hike in the summer, but a less common ski. We started in the Basher neighborhood in the foothills and followed the system of winter trails up towards the peak. There is an incredible amount of these multi use trails in Anchorage and you will find skiers, fat bikers, hikers, and nordic skiers on these trails.
The Front Range is known for its incredible views of Anchorage, Cook Inlet, and the mountains beyond.
The Front Range is also known for an incredibly thin snowpack. This part of Alaska is relatively dry to begin with, and heavy winds also rip apart the range. As a result, many slopes are just a pile of rocks all season. The aspects seem inconsistent to me, demonstrating the complex wind patterns in this range.
As we entered the NW bowl of Wolverine, our ski hopes started to show signs of life. Up until this point, everything above tree line was sastrugi, but here we found about an inch of snow on a supportable crust. This bowl seemed to catch just enough fresh snow to make skinning and skiing more pleasant.
Once at the ridge line, we followed the ridge to the gentle summit.
We had all the backcountry skiing forms covered: Brant and I fixed our heels, Brant’s housemate Colin freed his heels, and Brant’s friend Ben stood sideways on a splitboard. Such diversity!
Our initial run was more of a traverse over to the NW bowl that we ascended. At the top the skiing was not just merely acceptable – it was downright fun.
Down low, we decided to split up, with Colin and Ben returning to the car and Brant and I exploring a grove of Cottonwood trees we spotted on the way in. Brant loves tree skiing but is still looking for that epic tree skiing spot in Alaska.
Out of the alpine, the snowpack was incredibly different. Instead of bulletproof sastrugi and windboard, the snowpack was bottomless facets. I sunk in quite deeply while skinning in the sugary snow. If I stepped off my skis, there would be no telling how deep I would sink.
The Cottonwoods seemed to be home to a flock of white ptarmigans. They really did not care about us so I was able to get some close photos.
Brant and I climbed a ways up Near Point, then turned around once the snow got weird again. There were some fun soft snow turns here and hippie pow as we joined the trails back towards the car.
Wolverine Peak was a fun introduction to skiing in the Front Range. In my limited experience, it seems that the sun always comes out in Alaska, but the locals assured me that this sort of cold, sunny day with light winds is unusual, so I was very happy to enjoy such a pleasant day in the local hills above Anchorage!
- This tour was about 10 miles and 5,000 ft gain.
- The return to the car was not very splitboarder friendly, as there are many ups and downs. We did not have to transition, but did have to sidestep pretty long sections.