Valdez is ground zero. This is where helicopter skiing began, and where the Alyeska Pipeline connects the Alaska's billion-dollar oil industry to the rest of the world. On March 24, 1989, a tanker infamously struck a reef in Prince William Sound and spilled millions of gallons of crude oil into the ocean. Out of that environmental crisis came investment to revitalize the community—and a slush fund that helped back the first World Extreme Ski Championships in 1991. That event, in turn, kick-started the entire heli ski industry in Alaska.
Valdez is is where Doug Coombs and Dean Cummings pioneered skiing huge lines in the Chugach Mountains. Without their efforts, skiing would not be the same today. Numerous heli skiing outfitters are based out of Valdez, including Valdez Heli Ski Guides, H2O Guides, Rendezvous Heli Guides, among others. But it's not all helicopters and jet fuel. Valdez is also the gateway to Thompson Pass, a mecca for snowmobile and backcountry skiing, as well as the site of the historic Tsaina Lodge.