AK Dreamin – Excursion Heli Shred

We live in a time where there is a device for every element a human can encounter. Cooking, cleaning, warmth, water, building, travel, social, we have it all, at once. Now strip away all the surrounding infrastructure, resources, & components that help build these devices to be left with only final, refined pieces that can be utilized to their maximum potential. This is what Alaska is.

Over the course of a week, along with seven other heli shred seekers, I was dropped out of the sky onto a dirt runway in a dense northern rain forest that rapidly overtakes any advancements man has left to fallow. Our water was pumped into a 500 gallon cistern only after the lines had been cracked open & cleared of ice from Callahan & his father. A four hour boat ride procured 220 gallons of Jet-A fuel which rest outside a shed that housed a giant generator & oversized batteries to store solar power. The tongue and groove spruce timber bunkhouse & lodge where we stayed warm & slept was milled & shipped 22 miles from across the inlet. The clarity & distinction of each item resounded in the fact each device served an exact purpose. Our comforts rest upon those pieces being utilized to their full potential.

What landed me in this place was a phone call from good friend Mr. McViney, presenting me with both good & bad news. The bad news was we would miss the Baker Splitfest this year, the good news was a loosely organized trip to Alaska in hopes of shredding the Southern Chilkat range based out of the Dillon families remote lodge / property. With my main responsibility being a deposit, saying yes, & prospect of fulfilling a lifelong dream of ripping some lines in Ak, I was in.

Window to fly:
7 foot white cap waves & huge winds were our red carpet welcome into this grizzly place.  Our weather window was short, three to four days were allotted in hopes the weather would be good enough to get a heli into and out of excursion without too much wind.  Day one, grey bird and gusty winds, no fly, day two we had a heli hovering down over the lodge to grab us up and drop us at our first spot.  Due to the prior weeks high winds the upper reaches of almost all the mountains were scoured and layered with sastrugi making a pretty variable stage to shred.  Within minutes of our first drop a member from another party lost their footing and tumbled 800 – 900 ft. over exposed rock and firm slope.  Our guide was whisked away by the heli within minutes to help attend the situation at hand.  After a good hour and a half, the guides and heli were able to package up the fallen member and get them safely back to Juneau having reduced the potential of any more injury.

In the interim, we dug a tiny jump to bide our time until the heli was back and staged to pick us up from the remaining run we had in front of us.  After a small jump session we descended finding better snow in the mid-mountain reaches of the range.  Our next trip up led to similar conditions on a different aspect, with a bit better snow down low than before.  After our first day turned into mostly a wash, we had a good weather window for the next day, so we packed up, scouted a few more northern reaches of the Chilkats, and jammed back to Excursion.

Distilled resources, riding the Chilkats:
Our guide service APD, Alaska powder descents based out of Juneau has only ran a few trips prior to taking the 8 of us out on this mostly pioneer mission.  With an exploratory day behind us and a more purpose filled motivation, we charted north led by our guide Ed Shanely.  Fresh back from a trip in the Tordrillo Range in northern AK, Ed’s eagle eye picked out a workable first zone to start the day, which proceeded to two other very shreddable nearby zones.  We were in the mix, had efficient zones to lap, and worked a total of three zones over the course of seven runs.  With the scouting abilities of Ed, and our heli pilot, the zones we rode near mid-mountain held great consistent POW, and utilized our resources to their max.  Our pilot helped would drop and pick us up precisely where we needed, along with our guides and fellow riders sniffing out the best lines each area had to offer, this was the final product, a productive day of heli-riding.

For stepping into a trip without doing much planning, that took an enormous amount of resources to pull off as smoothly as we did is somewhat baffling.  It took some very specific people with detailed knowledge to get us where we were, so we all could use our prior knowledge from places we had been before, and apply it to this place.  It might have been like the acid trip Bob was about to embark on, or the time when Chuck skipped his plane off the water to crash land it on a tiny island after one of his engines blew, these people were using their skill at the height of their knowledge to pull off amazing experiences.  A huge thanks goes out to Callahan Dillon for making countless phone calls to line up the proper individuals to pull this trip off, his family for opening up the Excursion Lodge to our crew, and putting in some serious time to make our time there amazing.  Thanks to Todd, John, Freddie, Karl, Jeff, and Beyonce for being a rad crew to blast around the mountains with.  What a rad time.


Dave Reuss

About Dave Reuss

They say you can take the kid out of Cottonwood, but ya can't take the Cottonwood outta the kid, which has led this small town time traveler in search of landscapes to ride far and near. Trail rider, snow smasher, roofer, undercover nerd, it's a mixed bag of good times.