Locals – Matt Obermiller (Tiekel) Video
I’ve known Matt Obermiller for over 20 years. He escaped the crowds of the Wasatch where he learned and honed his BC ski skills, mountain ethos and then found his part of Alaska in the Chugach. He helped WESC photographers get the best shots. He later settled about 60 miles north of Valdez in the Tiekel Valley. He lives just off the highway and a short walk brings you to his homestead. In summer you have to cross the bridge he made to span the Tiekel River. (Video at bottom of page)
He lives by himself and is a construction contractor in Valdez and The Basin. I try to ski with him once or twice a year and learn what he’s been up to ski wise. As always I promised to respect his privacy as he guards that part of his life in the mountains, such as “where and when”. I can’t thank him enough for letting me share a day in the mountains with him. All I can tell you is what he does each winter is impressive.
A kindred spirit in the battle to temper the mechanized rampage in the area over the years, we have also cooperated on other issues in the area. He is a member of the Copper River Watershed Project, a conservation and community based organization supporting ongoing monitoring of that critical watershed. He has been active at all levels of regional land-use planning in the past and will continue in the future based on our trail chat today on the trail up to 52-Mile West.
Since moving to Alaska, he has been specializing in solo mid-winter trips from his home crossing the Chugach and into the Wrangells, skiing for days on end by himself. These are hard routes with canyons, cliffs, brush and open water. “The colder the better” is his style. He’s been out for days at -35F and has had his share of real blizzards. Though not shown in the video, his other jacket becomes a bivouac tent. It is that type of innovation that separates most if not all skiers from Matt Obermiller along with his unique approach to the sport.
Matt has size 15-wide feet. They just don’t make a ski boot that size. Not even foot pads, which he fabricated by stitching souls of dive shoes together to fit his feet. Even if they did make boots that size, he would destroy Dynafit bindings. When I though about that a bit I realized that it’s actually a handicap for someone who loves to ski such as Matt. His ability to improvise his boot/ski systems from basically nothing is amazing. While his systems may seem primitive to us with normal sized feet, it’s incredibly efficient for him.
A two-time winner of the Alaska Wilderness Classic Winter Race (typically over two hundred miles and a mountain range), he scraps his gear together and makes it work. He skis old modified Koflach boots with the cuff removed. He actually beat all the Dynafitters and moon-booters with his home-made ski systems in those distant races.
The sound is a bit low, but I think you will get the jest who this marvelous guy is. Hope you enjoy this short video about Matt. We rallied this am and did some trees up by his place. I love his downhill style as it’s so different from the fat turns common today. So dainty for such a huge guy, but that’s his Wasatch style, born in powder.