Words and Photos by: Brock Butterfield
“The thought of driving from Salt Lake City, UT to Valdez, AK has crossed my mind a few times since I first got the chance to ride in AK but it wasn’t until my homie Ryan Cruze told me he was going to do it that I decided I was going to be a part of it no matter what it took. I left SLC early and arrived in Seattle that evening where I met up with RC and camped out in his unique camping rig which consists of a Ford Bronco with a custom fit camper shell that RC got for $150 from the junk yard. Beers were consumed as we talked about how epic the trip was going to be. I went to bed tossing and turning like a kid on Christmas Eve.
The next day we picked up our buddy from the airport and made out way to Bellingham, WA. We heard that Mt. Baker was getting good snow so we made our way up to see what we could get done. With near blue bird conditions we broke out the splits and got to work on some lines right out of the upper Mt. Baker parking lot. Byron Bagwell, a local and good friend of ours, led the pack into some heavy northwest lines. After a day of shredding heavy powder we made our way to the local pub for some celebration beers and food. After getting back to Bellingham we found a note on the camper from some angry local. Allegedly we threw beer cans and trash all over but in reality the cans had been there for months judging by the rust.”
“After we left Bellingham we headed for the border. Unfortunately we didn’t make it far when RC blew a serpentine belt on ol’d “Yard Dog”. Luckily there was a Napa Auto Parts close by and we limped the Bronco over to the parking lot. RC’s got a slightly modified setup so the standard belt wouldn’t work. We had to try about 10 belts before we got the right one.
We lined up for the border crossing and for whatever reason I was the one who had to pull over to the side, go into the big building and get asked a million more questions. Luckily the crossing border officer was also a snowboarder and gave me the heads up on avy conditions in Whistler as well as the green light into Canada.
Just before hitting Whistler we pulled off the road and up to the Seagrams trail head where we made camp for the night. Hot soup, beers and moonshine was devoured as we talked about plans for the next day.
The next morning I remembered someone saying something about needing to change the jets on your sled if you’re going from high elevations like Utah and down to lower elevations like Whistler. I was able to get the phone number of a local sled shop called Revolution and got some info from them on what to look for on my spark plugs after running it full throttle for a bit. Sure enough my sled was running too hot and I needed to make moves to get the parts and put in the right jets for the carburetor. Couple hours later in the parking lot of Revolution and I had successfully changed out the jets to match the elevation. Huge thanks to Ryan and Felix at Revolution for all the help! After we refueled we headed to the Rutherford trail head where we made camp for the night and prepared for some bluebird conditions to follow the next day.”
“I’ll start off by saying that the Whistler backcountry will literally give you a seizure if you let your brain run wild trying to take in all the lines to be ridden. We linked in with some of our good local friends and made our way back towards the Rutherford Glacier to ride some of the famous BC backcountry we see all the time in magazines and latest shred flicks.
We started out with a short hike up a fun little zone with lots of options. After digging a quick pit we strapped in and dropped into some steep, poppy lines with lots of options. Stoke was on high was we rallied to the next zone on a different aspect. After taking a few “soul pow” laps we got to work on some technical film worthy stuff.
Another crew was just down from us filming and as I glanced over I watch one of the riders make two turns and a fracture line come roaring after. I shouted “slide!” and kept my eyes on the rider as everyone pinned their sleds full throttle over to the bottom. Luckily the rider had pulled their air bag and floated on top of the small slide which ended up being about 8-12 inches deep and about 30 feet wide. All was well in the end but we decided to take that as a sign and head up to the glacier cave for some exploring and then head back to camper for some dinner and beers.
The next morning we made our way out further and maneuvered our sleds down and around some crevasses to lay our eyes on an unbelievable zone with thousands of options and an easy sled shuttle to the top. We felt out the snow and after determining it was stable we got to work on some good, deep BC pow. A productive day of filming and shredding and we made our way to Pemberton for the night to camp in the skate park parking lot.
The following day we scored a hot shower at the community center for $3 and shredded the bowl section of the skate park before heading to dinner at a local friend’s house for a night of couch surfing before hitting the road for the 1500 mile drive to Alaska.”
After leaving early from Pemberton we made our trek north through some sketchy mountain passes. One of which just before Lillooet, BC took my rear tire out after hitting a small rock coming around a corner. I zigged when I should’ve zagged. It was a real pain when we realized my spare was only accessable if we lifted the tailgate up which had the sled resting on it. Three dudes and one sled and we managed to get the tailgate up to get to the cavity that releases the spare. In all of this we also managed to roll the truck off the bottle jack and narrowly missed our feet. I soon had the spare on and made my way to the next town of Lillooet where I was able to find the best tire shop in all of BC as far as I’m concerned.
The guys at Lillooet Glass and Tire found me a used tire that was the exact same make, model and size of the one I blew out. The price was right in the cheap snowboarder budget and they had me rolling in no time.
We continued the drive only stopping for gas and sleeping on the side of the road when needed. I played a scratch ticket for the hell of it at one gas station and won. It made me want to buy more scratch tickets with my winnings. That’s how they get you.
It’s indescribable how beautiful it is up in northern BC and Yukon territory. It’s truly in the middle of nowhere and you can go for hours without seeing a town but well worth the drive. One thing you have to keep an eye out for are the ice heaves in the road as they make giant jumps for your vehicle. The bad thing is they’re only marked with a little red flag right next to the ice heave so you have no warning. At one point I decided to take my seat belt off to remove my jacket and it just so happened that before I could get my seat belt back on I saw the little red flag go past my right tire. My fully loaded Toyota Tundra caught at least 3 feet of air and I roosted my head into the ceiling of my cab as I myself caught almost the same amount of air. Watch out for ice heaves. It’s a bumpy ride to Alaska!
We crossed the border into AK after a few days and witnessed an awesome sunset with the Wrangell Mountain Range in the background. It was almost as though Alaska was saying, “Welcome. Come shred!”. We continued the push with excitement and made it to Thompson Pass after a long 19 hour day of driving.”
Even after the long drive to get to Thompson Pass we didn’t sleep much due to the excitement in the morning from sleds being started and hearing people talk about “code blue”. We could tell that it was time to get up and take advantage of supreme conditions on the pass.
The next few days were filled with non stop hiking, sled necking and shredding the hell out of the fresh snow and blue bird days. From my experience two years ago I’ve learned it’s hard to get a “code blue” day so we took the opportunity and rode from dawn till dusk till we couldn’t see our lines anymore.
Some lines to note that we were able to attack was the Berlin Wall, Python and The Books. Out of all of those so far I have to say that The Books are the most memorable. Endless lines and fairly easy boot packs to the top.
We spent another day out on the HooDoo Glacier and hung a hammock with ice screws. The glacier had a pretty unique wall that Moss Halladay got a rad wall ride on.
We’ve got a few days of blue left before the storm rolls in to give a refresh. Hoping to get out in the heli for a couple bumps with Alaska Snowboard Guides!”