[Editor's note: This is part three in a series called AK Chronicles on TGR's travels in Alaska while filming for their new movie, "The Dream Factory." The author, TGR athlete Griffin Post, penned this in a dingy hotel room, drinking bad coffee, with his harness and ski boots on, incrementally staring out the window to check the weather.]
Alaska is an enigma in the ski world: lampshade spines, shower curtain flutes, and 40-degree ramps that have more vertical than most resorts. It's where the proverbial big mountain stars -- terrain, snowpack, and weather -- align. Or at least, that's the image usually portrayed by ski films and magazines. The reality, it turns out, is a little different.
If you were to pick a random moment in the season and a random pro skier in Alaska, what you'd see instead looks more like this: the athlete looking at forecasts on his or her laptop, drinking bad coffee in an even worse hotel room, or pacing around a heli-deck, anxiously waiting to see if the weather pops. The truth is, while Alaska undoubtedly delivers the goods each season, the fickle state only offers its bounty to those willing to put in the time.
"Alaska has always been the place that you go -- it's the pinnacle of what we do," says 18-year Alaska veteran and Teton Gravity Research co-founder Todd Jones. "The waiting around is tough. You have to be ready to come off the couch at any given moment. We always try to stay in the mix -- if it looks promising we go out, try and ride and stay fresh and in tune with the mountains and environment."
While skiers in general are no strangers to the waiting game, the waiting in Alaska seems to be a bit different, a bit more anxious. It can feel like one giant dentist's office, waiting for an appointment that might not come for days. And sure, these are good problems to have, waiting around wondering if you're going to ski the best runs in the world. But there are some drawbacks to it.
"What people see on screen might be the first day of skiing in five days, with no warm up run," says TGR athlete Todd Ligare. "You might be super cold coming right off the bench, and it might be the heaviest moment of the trip."
Waiting aside, when the clouds do break, it's nothing short of magical. "The payoff is, you're in one of the most epic riding areas on planet earth," says Jones. "Whatever it is about Alaska, it truly is the best place on the planet to ride."