WORDS: Kim Havell
There is a bullshit button in the kitchen. It sits above the entry and if you start talking smack, it gets a tap and you get a call-out. At Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, the staff brings their A-game and like it when you do too.
Heli ski masters Mike Overcast and Greg Harms, and Olympic gold medalist Tommy Moe have been opening up the Tordrillo Mountains in the Alaska Range for seven years. This past winter, Overcast, Harms, and Moe announced their departure from Chugach Powder Guides to launch a new company, Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, in May. In a quest for adventure in the Tordrillos, they pulled together years of friendship, skill and knowledge honed in the big mountains for the new endeavor.
The three make a powerful team although individually they strike a great contrast. Harms is dynamic and towering at 6'5, Moe has an ever-present grin, and Overcast's commanding blue eyes mean business. You trust them and you want to go on adventures with them.
In the Tordrillos, ski runs start at 7,500 feet and end at 2,000 feet, dropping down peaks cut with dramatic couloirs, and surrounded by panoramic views. The volcanoes that shaped them, combined with glacial activity, have carved out spectacular ski and snowboard runs throughout the range.
The team regularly logs first descents during both the winter and the June Cast & Carve sessions. Harms recently set a world record for skiing 101 different runs in a 24-hour period. There is no end to possibilities in the 1.2 million acres at their doorstep.
Last week, I took a 40-minute floatplane flight from Anchorage to join a jovial, small crew of 12 for a session of Cast & Carve. We got 24 hours of daylight filled with corn skiing and king salmon fishing, as well as a few first descents.
The lodge can feel like man camp, but there are some great ladies around who balance the system. Take Bret, the general manager, who, while maintaining the property solo a few summers ago, shot and killed a rampant bear that had broken in and took a flour bath in the kitchen. She looked up "How to Skin a Bear" on Youtube and did just that.
As we head out to ski a few runs for a June afternoon corn session, pilot Jedi Glenn fires up the helicopter and hollers, "fire in the hole, " the warning for take off. Glenn can land on a dime and maneuver the machine through an eye of needle. Despite his air savvy, the redneck in him lives strong. Hours later, he'll settle in for a bite of a spam sandwich for lunch. He offered to share some of his stash. No takers.
If you hang around long enough, most likely, you'll get a nickname. Standing next to Moe, waiting for the heli to arrive, Glenn calls him over the radio.
"Golden Balls, this is Jonny Cash, do you copy?"
A few hours later, while coming in solo for a fun riverside landing, Jonny Cash radios in again, "Now that's what they call a widow maker,' and he lifts up and shifts to a better location. There’s no bullshit in the Alaska Mountains, but lots of A-game.