Sledding along the Books on Thompson Pass, AK. PHOTO: Mike Basich

By Mike Basich

Everyone is addicted to something. I figured out what mine was the year I skipped spending spring in Alaska. I felt like I needed therapy after missing a season there, even though I live and breath snow everyday in Tahoe, I still need my Alaskan dose of fresh powder lines. So I made it through the year with the shakes and tried to plan out a trip for the spring to AK. Having inheriting some debts and low on cash, I booked a mileage ticket to Anchorage. I didn’t care about the rest, I just needed to make sure I made it to the state, and I figured the rest comes as it lays—I was willing to do what ever it took to make it to Thompson Pass outside of Valdez.
I’ve spend a lot of time there, so I had the phones cracked, electric sockets dialed, and knew the in and outs of how to make it to half the LZs (landing zones) with a sled. My sled was still up there—no car, but that was the least of worries. I talked to Rob Kingwell about getting him up there as well. I really didn’t have much of a plan or project goal besides to feed my addiction to the fullest. Rob ended up entering some contest in Alyeska so he was going to make it, I told him I’d be at Thompson pass. Find me. I was lucky enough to start off my trip hitching a ride with Dave Basterrechea and his crew of four. I squeezed my bags in and we headed to Thompson Pass.

After a six-hour drive we arrived at 3:00 a.m. I still had no plan, but I had my sleeping bag. So I crashed in a vacant tent, which ended up belonging to photographer Mark Sullivan. It even had a fireplace. Waking up to blue skies in Alaska is the highest-grade conditions you’re going to get. The snow was good and Dave’s crew was cool enough to let me hitch a ride on their sled. I have to say even before I strapped on my snowboard my veins were being pumped with fulfillment. We rode all day and getting back around dusk I found a ride into town. I got my sled and ended up picking up the ultimate motor home—a U-haul might not have heat, but it has square footage and you can put your sled in the back. So I got a sweet fourteen-foot U-Haul for $19.95 a day with a loft. Picked up some food and a siphon for getting gas out of the U-Haul for my sled. Yeah, it was a low budget trip. I knew it was going to be cold but again—I didn’t care. I bumped into Rob later that night. He ended up hitching a ride with a girl Whitney who became part of our crew for the U-Haul adventure. We planned ten days in AK, with the weather being pretty bad, we added a few more days after shuffling flights around. We had some days in, but a high pressure was coming soon.

The crew: Rob Kingwell, Whitney Bell, and Mike Basich.

Once the weather broke clear we headed straight to the lines I had planned. It was Rob’s first real AK-style riding, nice lines and a lot of rocks … with a rock ending my day in pain. I was out for three days at least I figured. Rob and Whitney kept things going riding stuff close to the road as I sat in the U-Haul and shot photos. We still hadn’t made it out to the Books, an area I was dying to hit. I asked the two if they’d be into helping me with my sled if we went out there. I couldn’t start my sled or dig it out if I got stuck. But I could stand on one leg and give it gas. Our last day we made it to the Books, which made me feel like I was in a small cage in heaven. I could only stand there and point my camera and tell the two they should go ride everything they could. The sunset on our ride back to motel U-Haul was enough for me to feel satisfied. Just being in Alaska is a big enough high. There really aren’t words to explain this Alaskan high. Trust me, sleeping on a metal floor in the back of a U-Haul in zero-degree weather is nothing compared to what you get out of it. Will I go back again next year? Well, I’m sure not going to therapy.