Back In The Day – Powder Magazine 1986


Snowboards are mentioned on the cover of Powder for the first time.

It’s a good thing. Backcountry skiing had a rich history in Valdez and Thompson Pass before the mechanized buzz hatched by WESC in the 90’s. That powder dream continues today in the community at many levels. While it’s easy to think of WESC at the start of it all, that was not the case based on my research and experiences at the time. The pioneers who pushed the limits of our remote powder haven had grander plans and worked hard to develop a winter ski attitude in a town literally in the middle of nowhere over-run by workers completing the pipeline. The mind boggling amounts of snow each winter was sad to ski at times considering the voters approval of bonding not one, but four grain silo’s along with disapproval of the Sugarloaf Ski Lift  on the same 1982 ballot. Ski enthusiast continued promoting Valdez anyway they could and evidence of this effort is this historic article by Powder Magazine in 1986.

Through good fortune and good friends, renowned outdoor writer and photographer Chris Noble accepted an invitation to visit and write about skiing Valdez. Dr. Andrew Embick along with John Weiland and others had moved Valdez one step closer to becoming the ski mecca of the world through their contacts and climbs here and around the world.

Not only did Noble write about backcountry skiing in Valdez in the Photo Annual, but more exciting was local legend Brian Teale made the centerfold with a classic, air-catching telemark off Gap Cornice in Thompson Pass. Brian was kind enough to let me photograph the pages and present a few excerpts here for your enjoyment. (Simply click on the pictures to see a larger version that may be easier to read.)

The history of skiing in Valdez or anywhere is like a long thead, weavings its way through mountains and stories, not to be defined by one event or individual. One thing leads to another and soon tiny flakes of snow will begin dancing down through grey skies leaving one wandering where the thread will lead to in the future.


Brian Teale (Valdez) Powder Magazine 1986


Jim and Nancy Lethcoe’s sloop.




John Weiland does some tele’s with his mountain dog Kiska in Nicks Happy Valley – Winter 1985.