01 / VALDEZ, ALASKA 1993 spring

In the Spring of 1993, the dawn of heli exploration of the area, 20 snowboarders and skiers from around the globe gathered to Valdez, a small rustic town nestled in the Church range of Alaska. The snow between late March and mid May was absolutely perfect and the slope conditions were the best seen in a decade. The idea was to charter a Heli for the whole duration, fly to any peaks that seemed possible to drop riders off and ride as many super steep slopes as someone would dare. That was the beginning of what people would later call “Extreme skiing/snowboarding”.

All slopes were at least 45 degrees steep, some up to 60 degrees or more. The 20 skiers and snowboarders were of the best of that time with the right skill and mind set. Someone called for a flight and 5 members grouped up. The heli was gaining altitude as the rotors’ piping sound broke the silence of mountains and made its way through the shades of the vast glacier valleys. As we chased the sun and flew over the ridge, we saw an expansion of mountain range with fresh virgin slopes glittering in golden sunset light all the way to the far horizon. Which peak are we to choose. We had plenty of time and no need to worry about waiting for the next heli.

Valdez local, Donny Mills dropped into a fabulous, perfect powder covered, extremely steep, long and almost surreal looking slope lit by the long lasting beautiful setting sunlight. We all shared a time of pure and simple blissfulness that was given to just the 5 of us. Watching a human being, just on his own, riding down 1000 to 1500m vertical, in that kind of surroundings feels like something out of the real world is happening.

The slope had many cracks where the slope angle changed, I paused before them and watched Donny passing by. The sun was setting and the wind went lull. It was a moment of serenity and pure bliss found in one of the most severe environment on earth. What a wonderful experience. It was such a pure moment that I could just not stop but being grateful to the Universe and appreciating Life.

Taro Tamai