Skiing the Wild West: A Summer Heli Tour of Alaska’s Tordrillos
If there is a Wild West to Alaska heli-skiing it can be found at the Tordrillo Mountain Lodge (TML). Accessible only by small aircraft, TML is a 40-minute flight from the city of Anchorage. Serving as the base camp to mountain and river adventures, the lodge offers a rare solitude, perched on the edge of the pristine Judd Lake at the foot of the magnificent Alaska Range. From the remote banks of TML, it is possible to delve deep into the Alaskan West of the Tordrillos.
Known for pioneering more new terrain than any other operation in the state, TML owners’ Olympic gold medalist & guide Tommy Moe and heli-skiing gurus Greg Harms and Mike Overcast bring Alaskan soul to the experience. Each owner has a minimum of 15 years in heli-ski operations and together they have cataloged hundreds of new runs in the Tordrillos. With an initial reconnaissance mission years ago that involved corn skiing and king salmon fishing under a June midnight sun, the group was hooked, purchasing and refurbishing an old Lodge that became HQ.
TML consistently scouts new terrain. Each week of operation from February until May, and also during its “Cast & Carve” program through June, the Guides push out into new places. And, with 1.2 million acres to work with, the isolated region has untapped potential. Mapping out and discovering new corners in the 600 inches of snow a season, the owners/guides find endless options for descents in some of the most scenic and thrilling mountains in the world.
The views encompass two 11,000-foot volcanoes as well as Mt. McKinley, or Denali, North America’s highest peak at 20,320 feet. Out here, it is the Alaska bush and the visitor experience is redefined daily. Ski runs start at 7,500 feet and end at 2,000 feet, dropping down peaks that are cut with dramatic couloirs and big faces, all while surrounded by panoramic views. The Tordrillos are volcanic and when combined with glacial activity have carved out singular ski and snowboard runs throughout the range.
In addition to skiing, there is world-class fishing. With miles of rivers and innumerable lakes, there is an abundance of locations from which to choose the day’s catch. The Lodge is open for “Cast & Carve” weeks in June and then from late May to late September for flexible fishing excursions for days or weeks at a time. With an abundance of salmon, rainbow trout, and other species, and no lack of natural protected water sources to peruse, those casting a rod will find endless tranquility.
The Tordrillos are a blank canvas of epic proportion and the free-range folks at TML help you stake a claim in a surreal Western Alaska experience.
Kim Havell is a professional skier with the Salomon Freeski International Team, as well as a writer and photographer. Follow her on Twitter: @kimhavell or her page on Facebook: Kim Havell, athlete
- Nat Geo Expeditions