Adventure In AK With Mark Morris on the Pioneer 109
When I first clicked into the Pioneer 109 I felt as though Icelantic discovered the perfect ski that met the core demands of an everyday big mountain skier. Not only is the ski incredibly nimble in the skin track but it also breaks trail more efficiently than any other ski I’ve ever been on. On a more personal note, the ski helped redefine the style in which I execute the down-hill decent as well.
During my career as a big mountain athlete my main focus has always been targeted to reach maximum speeds, employ minimal turns, and rely heavily on the planks under my feet for heavy lifting while taking air. The Pioneer 109 changed that focus completely. For the first time as a skier I now feel like I have 100% control of my body on the mountain without compromising any power or stability.
I began skiing the Pioneer 109 in mid February 2016. Colorado was in a bit of a dry spell in February so many of the lines that are otherwise un-skiable during that month were in. During the month of February I skied a handful of couloirs and really discovered the Pioneers light weight agility on the uphill skins as well as the power control on steep and ice-covered decent’s. After a month or so of testing the ski in Colorado I knew the Pioneer 109 would be the perfect tool for unpredictable snowpack. Fellow Icelantic athlete, Julian Carr, and I decided to head up to Alaska to test out the new line of Icelantic skis.
-Skinning on the Pioneer 109-
-Julian Carr breaking trail in Talkeetna-
Alaska is always a tricky place to ski in late spring because of the sheer volume of precipitation received, combined with rapid temperature change at varying elevations. Over the last few seasons the snow safety in the Chugach has been particularly challenging. Because of this Julian and I decided to scout our main objectives from the air.
Our ultimate goal for the trip was to bag a giant called Silver Tip, 99737ft. As we flew over the mountain range we noticed large glide-fractures up to 2,000ft, so we knew if this was going to be possible we would need perfect conditions. In preparation for Silver Tip the team decided to focus on smaller lines to give us a sense of what was going on in the backcountry. We bagged several Turnagain classics like Tin-Can, Corn-Biscuit, Little League, and approached Kick-Step before a large weather front moved in.
Photo by: Doug Evans
If you've ever skied in Alaska you know how fast the weather can change. We experienced this first hand half way through our trip to the Chugach. We were socked in with rain and wet snow for over 5 days. The NOAA weather report actually warned travelers to be ware of ‘large ponding’ on the roads. Because of this we were forced to ski lift serviced powder at Alyeska Resort, which was awesome! When the weather finally broke we were optimistic at the chance to bag Silver Tip but again the Avalanche reports from Chugach Powder Guides suggested ‘only a fool would venture into the backcountry’. We decided to take a look at the damaged snowpack first hand. It had completely changed in 72 hours. What looked like a possibility at the beginning of the trip was now riddled with massive glide fractures, some with over 10ft crowns over 100’s of feet. A tough decision was made to abort the mission, but I am thankful we made this decision as conditions never healed in the Chugatch in spring 2016.
Follow Mark Morris on Instagram @lonesomepony