The Big Five: Sphinx
FIRST DESCENT: Jim Rippey (snowboard), Doug Coombs (skis)
VERTICAL: 1,800 feet, 57 degrees sustained
ACCESS: No official permits currently issued. A point of contention in the Chugach.
AS SEEN IN THE JANUARY 2012 ISSUE OF FREESKIER MAGAZINE. WORDS BY CHRISTOPHER JERARD.
TAKE IT AT THE MOST SUPERFICIAL LEVEL AND YOU KNOW WHY THIS ARROWHEAD IS SO APPEALING, LIKE A SUPERMODEL OF PERFECT PROPORTIONS. MAKE IT TO THE FUNNELING, SLOUGH MAGNET OF A CHOKE AND YOUR PUMPING HEART WILL CONFIRM THAT YOU’VE BEEN SOMEWHERE UNIQUE AND SPECIAL IN THE SOUL OF SKIING.
SKIER: KENT KREITLER PHOTO: KEOKI FLAGG
“When landing on top of her, you come in from the back side. It’s a mandatory guide drop-off while the aircraft goes into a toed-in hover. The guide builds a makeshift LZ before the helicopter brings in the riders. You then skirt your way around the jagged top for about 70 feet to what we call the ‘start house.’ This is an ass-puckering traverse. Once there, your skis hang out over the edge as you peer straight down the 1,800 feet of bliss. The slope is off camber making all your slough run from the top to the skiers right, into a large runnel. The ideal way to ski her is a falling leaf pattern to the left, avoiding your slough passing on the right. Kent Kreitler was up there for the Warren Miller film in 2002. He basically set the standard, probably never to be repeated: 14 turns and skied her in 28 seconds! Conditions that day were as good as it gets.” —Kevin Quinn, owner and operator, Points North Heli-Adventures
“Sphinx is a magnificent run that I would put in the top 10 runs in the world that anyone could ski. When I skied it, I was showing off. It’s even better if you make 200 turns and take 10 minutes.” —Kent Kreitler, pioneering Alaska skier