As April rolls around, the snowpack at your local resort is getting mushier than day-old oatmeal. You’ve been riding tough since Christmas and this season you want to finish up with a bang. Granted, Alaska isn’t the only place on Earth to ride the steep and deep, but when you get an epic day in the Chugach Mountains outside of Valdez, things don’t get much better.

You could be spending your precious two-week spring break in Tijuana, hangin’ out on the beach, catchin’ rays and raging, but for something a little different, why not head north instead of south? Come up to a rainy, boring, seaport town in Southern Alaska (while everyone else is getting sunburned, watching some lame bikini contest) and snowboard at some of the coolest mountains on this planet. All you need to do is get up here and pray for good weather-in the Chugach there are no chairlifts or trams, and if the weather gets stormy, you’ll be stuck in Valdez shooting pool or playing outdated video games.

The first glimpse of these mountains will forever change your perception of freeriding. Giant natural ramps that appear nearly vertical are stacked up next to one another and look like a shelf of books from the distance. Blue-ice glaciers line the chutes and glow, bright as blueberry popsicles in the evening light. Cliff-bands line up like staircases, and all the landings are fluff. Sometimes, it seems that God was a snowboarder when she created these mountains, because it is really set up nicely for the way we ride.

The Chugach peaks are steep, and there are a few dangerous mountain features to be aware of: cornices, avalanches and crevasses. But once you acknowledge these dangers and commit to avoiding them at all costs, you’ll be ready for some quality boarding.

Instead of jumping in a high-powered helicopter and flying up to some unnamed, unridden peak to film a sequence for TB7, it’s a good idea to ease into things-it’s also much more affordable. Start off by taking some road runs or cat rides. Road runs are free; you just hitchhike to Thompson Pass, get out of the car, tell the driver “Thanks,” and board on down to the road. It’s only about 800 vertical feet and the snow can be pretty manky down low, but hey, you gotta start somewhere.

There are usually a bunch of local snowboarders doing laps on the road runs. There are some pretty good cliffs to huck, but watch out for flat landings-like most of the great outdoors, here in Alaska, everything is bigger than it looks. Some pretty awesome riders have come out of Valdez, like Myles Burgett and Ryan McCune, and it was right here on the road runs they honed their skills as grommets.

Ryan “Rydor” McCune remembers, “Jesse Tol’s dad actually chopped down all the scrub brush on the ‘road shot’ back in the 70s. My dad started taking me out there when I was two. When I turned ten, somehow Myles and I ended up with snowboards and got into it, but Jesse kept skiing. In ’93, Donny Mills got me doing graphics for the AK Bommer Custom Snowboards; we’d pile in his rig, do some runs, then go make more boards.”

The Pass is also where the snowcats park. You’ll see them-they look like big yellow Tonka Tanks. Some guy will be standing there, smelling like diesel fuel and loading up the snowboards. It costs about 30 dollars a lift, and they’ll take you up the backside of Mt. Odyssey. Odyssey was one of the first peaks ridden here back in the day, and the main face starts at 50 degrees (pretty steep) and goes for 3,000 vertical feet (pretty long).

As the days get longer during your spring break getaway to AK, you’ll find yourself back behind some huge peak, a kicker built, seshin’ it with your bros, and gazing out at the epic scenery. It’s killer-take one cat ride up, and then hang out for hours. You’ll be huckin’ sweet cliffs and chillin’ in paradise. Pack a lunch (I like to lug pizzas and PBJs, myself) because it’s a long ride down and an even longer hitchhike back to Valdez for edibles and swillablesP>The Richardson Highway is the only road that comes in and out of Valdez, so you really can’t get lost heading up to the mountains. It’s only about a half-hour cruise up to Thompson Pass, depending on the weather and the traffic. As novel and easy a concept as hitchhiking is, sometimes it just plain doesn’t cut it. Some days, you’ll walk out to where the road heads out of town, throw out your thumb, and boom, Nick Perata pulls up in his pimp-daddy Lincoln Continental, and up you cruise in style.

But, then the very next day, you could stand out there for a good three hours. About 50 rednecks will pass you right up, not even giving you so much as a glimpse as they drive up alone in their big,

roomy pickup trucks. Why call ‘em pickup trucks if they never pick you up? Lots of time to think about trivial things while you’re standing out there, when you could be 35 miles away with your board strapped on.

It’s not a bad idea to have wheels up here. It’s pretty easy to roll into town with a couple-hundred bucks for transpo. Perata splurged, kicking down 800 dollars, and drove away with the Lincoln. My method is to bring some tools as carry-on luggage, fly into Anchorage, get the want ads, and find the cheapest Subaru. Throw the board bags on the roof and make the scenic, five-hour drive around The Chugach Mountains to Valdez. Knock on wood that you don’t get a lemon.

Once you get there, where should you stay? There are a bunch of hotels in town and you’ll end spending about 40 dollars a night. The Totem Inn is where most of the traveling riders and King of

The Hill competitors hang. The bar is a pretty mellow spot to shoot some pool, have a fish burger, an Alaskan Amber, and check out some local snowboard footage on the tube. It’s also a good spot to catch a ride up the hill in the morning.

Renting a motorhome for a week or two is really the way to set yourself up for an epic AK snowboarding experience. The land-yachts in the parking lots are a sure sign that veteran Chugach riders are in town. Anyone who’s been up here before knows that getting an RV is the call. You’ve got your bed, your wheels, your fridge, your tunes, and maybe even a VCR. Instead of waking up in town, under a blanket of clouds at sea level, you could be waking up right at the base of the mountains. It’s nice to look out and see bluebird skies through the RV window, brew up some coffee, and then go riding.

Although there aren’t a lot of people hanging out around Valdez during spring break, the place is a bustling tourist trap in the summer. Spectacular glaciers fall into the sea a few miles from the town port, and sea-kayaking around is a blast. Also, the deep-water fishing out in the Prince William Sound is awesome if you’re into pulling up a couple-hundred-pound halibut. I highly recommend taking a charter fishing boat out there to see the beautiful, black-beach shoreline caused by the Exxon Tanker crash. If you really get bored on those rainy down days when it’s wet, cold, and stormy, you can always go buy a box of bullets at the hardware store. The shooting range is just past the airport, and for some reason Alaska is a place where people can go out and shoot as many rounds as they want. To each his own, but it’s at least more fun than Nintendo.

Skiplanes are a key part of snowboarding around Valdez. Not only are they cheaper than helicopters and have way more range than a snowcat, they access killer terrain and are fun to fly in. At Alaska Backcountry Adventures (ABA), they have two 1954 De Haivalland Beavers retrofitted with landing skis (although they look like big, white, metal versions of an old Burton Backhill).

Doug Brewer is the pilot of a styley, freshly painted red Beaver, and he loves flying around as a bush pilot. Not only will you get a lift up to a glacial plateau (where you can either hike up a nearby peak for freshies, build a kicker and hang out, or just ride right down the miles of windlips, powder, and terrain features that await below), but on the way, Brewer will give you a scenic fly-by of all the glaciers and peaks in the area. If there are any mountain goats or wolverines or black bears milling around, you can be sure that Doug, a master hunter/trapper from Kenai, will scope them out and give them a fly-by.

“We’re the only guide service in the country, maybe in the world, that offers fixed-wing air-taxi service. It’s pretty unique, and it’s lots of fun. Next season, I’d like to put skis on my Twin Turbo Otter. It seats 10 and climbs as fast as a helicopter. That should be even more fun, ” says Brewer. What a nice thing to have waiting for you 3,000 vertical feet below, parked on frozen lake, ready to take off and fly you up to some other killer run. Many of the sick lines dropped on The King of The Hill and in most snowboard flicks were scouted from this skiplane. A one-way fare to The Magic Kingdom landing strip is 40 dollars-peanuts not included.

This spring break you could be sitting poolside with an umbrella stuck in your drink. But standing on some unnamed peak with a mile of untracked waiting below, you’ll be glad you headed north instead.

For more information contact: Valdez Convention and Visitors Bureau (907) 835-2984, Alaska Backcountry Adventures (907) 835-5608, and the Totem Inn (907) 835-4445.

Pull Quote:

This spring break you could be sitting poolside with an umbrella stuck in your drink. But standing on some unnamed peak with a mile of untracked waiting below, you’ll be glad you headed north instead.res that await below), but on the way, Brewer will give you a scenic fly-by of all the glaciers and peaks in the area. If there are any mountain goats or wolverines or black bears milling around, you can be sure that Doug, a master hunter/trapper from Kenai, will scope them out and give them a fly-by.

“We’re the only guide service in the country, maybe in the world, that offers fixed-wing air-taxi service. It’s pretty unique, and it’s lots of fun. Next season, I’d like to put skis on my Twin Turbo Otter. It seats 10 and climbs as fast as a helicopter. That should be even more fun, ” says Brewer. What a nice thing to have waiting for you 3,000 vertical feet below, parked on frozen lake, ready to take off and fly you up to some other killer run. Many of the sick lines dropped on The King of The Hill and in most snowboard flicks were scouted from this skiplane. A one-way fare to The Magic Kingdom landing strip is 40 dollars-peanuts not included.

This spring break you could be sitting poolside with an umbrella stuck in your drink. But standing on some unnamed peak with a mile of untracked waiting below, you’ll be glad you headed north instead.

For more information contact: Valdez Convention and Visitors Bureau (907) 835-2984, Alaska Backcountry Adventures (907) 835-5608, and the Totem Inn (907) 835-4445.

Pull Quote:

This spring break you could be sitting poolside with an umbrella stuck in your drink. But standing on some unnamed peak with a mile of untracked waiting below, you’ll be glad you headed north instead.