today is Nov 28, 2021

I was born in Alaska. I grew up here. A measurable portion of my youth was spent looking out the window of my parent’s car at the mountains of the Western Chugach rising straight out of the water en route to our small family cabin in Girdwood – the only place I truly wanted to be. So familiar, yet so imposing.

Now, as an adult, I’m still blown away. I’ve never been able to shake the awe that comes with exposure to the scale and intensity of the mountains here. I have been incredibly fortunate. I’ve had the opportunity to make a living by diving deep into summer and winter backcountry of Alaska in a way that most people only dream of. I’ve owned two heli-skiing operations. I’ve worked as an outfitter. I’ve worked with a hundred different film and photo crews and figured out how to make things happen in really difficult and remote places. I’ve lived well in the mountains and on the rivers here.

But here’s the thing… I know that even with the unparalleled access that I’ve been lucky enough to have, I’ve barely scratched the surface. This place still humbles the living hell out of me. It’s huge. Looking at the Chugach or the Alaska Range from the air is like looking at the ocean. There are peaks and walls as far as the eye can see, until the Earth curves away, and most of those peaks are unnamed and untouched. Every ridge reveals a whole new world. You quickly understand that it would take months to make your way out on foot, but more likely, your life would end in the effort.

At some point, I started pointing a camera at mountain faces of the Chugach, the Tordrillos, the Neacolas, the Alaska Range proper, the Brooks Range and anywhere else I could access. Like human faces, every line, furrow, crease and feature is part of their life story. In the case of mountains, much of that story is rooted in power. Power you can feel in your bones. Immense power of formation, staying power against time and elements, latent and potential energy in the form of snow and ice loading, waiting to come down with unfathomable kinetic energy, and the eventual release of water that powers all of our lives. Every one of these faces has its own story and its own mystery. I’m eternally fascinated. And small. Very small. When I stop feeling small, it’s time to hang it up. — Chris Owens

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Photo Credit: Chris Owens

We watched these walls in the Chugach for four years, hoping that the stars would align to provide us with weather and snow conditions that would not only develop, but last long enough to park a full crew for multiple days and get in and out safely without mechanical assistance and live to tell the story. We never made it happen. For now, it’s another dragon to be slain only in our minds.

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Photo Credit: Chris Owens

The Chugach Range - Prince William Sound. There’s nothing like seeing your ride dwarfed by a plethora of incomprehensible lines to make you feel small.

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Photo Credit: Chris Owens

Science Fiction. Some zones are mind surf only. I have this blown up large on my wall and you can spend a lot of time trying to pick your way through this in your head and find lines that finish. In reality, even the approach on this is nearly impossible. This zone in the Chugach is human power only, so a big part of the thought process is making it in and out with available daylight.

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Photo Credit: Chris Owens

Still a few chips, but starting to shape up. When she’s fat and happy, this little zone in the Chugach will keep you busy for a while.

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Photo Credit: Chris Owens

The Yale Glacier dumping into Prince William Sound. This is just a fraction of the terrain in this zone. Again, only human powered access permitted here.

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Photo Credit: Chris Owens

I like this peak in the Tordrillos because the face has a face. Lots of ways to entertain your imagination here.

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Photo Credit: Chris Owens

Light starting to reveal potential objectives near the Harvard Glacier. This was an early season scout. Multiple returns were required to track the progression of conditions before we ultimately decided to pull the plug for the season. Conditions just wouldn’t allow us to get it done in a survivable manner.

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Photo Credit: Chris Owens

Inspiring formations in the Tordrillo Mountains. You'll often spot these types of things while en route to another objective. Another day, another time.

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Photo Credit: Chris Owens

Looking for lines and assessing conditions in the Chugach Range, Prince William Sound in preparation for filming “The Fourth Phase” for Red Bull Media House. Small planes like the Piper Supercub are ideal, because you can get them in and out of almost anywhere, they are relatively cheap to operate and they can often go places where helicopters are illegal.

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Photo Credit: Chris Owens

This wall of ice spines near Mt. Marcus Baker holds promise for the right superhero, but today, it’s pretty bullet proof.

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Photo Credit: Chris Owens

Scouting for some spots to get some work done in the Alaska Range proper. The scale in this zone is mind blowing. It’s really easy to underestimate the size of things out here. This one holds promise for later in the season.

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Photo Credit: Chris Owens

Taking a moment to enjoy real, true, crisp silence that can only be experienced in remote mountains in the winter. Ted Purdy and I had been digging pits and evaluating snowpack late in the day in College Fjord. We always travel as a pair in two separate airplanes when working out here, as any form of help is a long way off.

Chris Owens has spent over two decades managing the safe delivery of the Alaska backcountry and mountain experiences to thousands of people. Through his former ownership, development and management of Chugach Powder Guides and Chugach Adventure Guides, Chris helped forge the development and success of the now robust heli sports industry in Alaska.

He is known for making logistically intensive projects happen in remote locations without a hitch. Chris has provided organizational, location, logistical and safety support to Alaska film, television and print projects since 1997. He has shot segments with ESPN, Red Bull, Brainfarm, Discovery, the Travel Channel, Warren Miller Entertainment, BBC, ABC, NBC, Teton Gravity Research, Matchstick Productions, The History Channel, National Geographic and a multitude of other film and television production companies. He regularly coordinates the action of helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, safety and action crews, and more in the wilds of Alaska.

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