By Mike Mannelin Explorebigsky.com columnist
My back was glued to the worn out driver’s seat as we bounced north along the gravel covered, frost heaved Alaska Highway. The last town we passed was Fort Nelson, B.C., about a hundred miles ago.
I hit the seek button on the radio one more time to see if we could find a station. After several laps on the digital dial, and a few more corners around a few more hills, the AM dial landed on a news program.
CBC radio is Canada’s public radio, and on the trip from Big Sky to Haines, we counted on it, as it was usually the only airwave entertainment we could find. The newsman told us about riots in Athens, Greece. He said there were over 100 thousand Greeks protesting the new austerity measures being voted on by parliament. Protesters were rioting, throwing gas bombs, burning and destroying buildings. He also noted that Greece’s unemployment rate was at around 20 percent, and was expected to rise with the new bailout agreement about to be passed.
The radio faded in and out as we rounded corners and climbed hills, taking in beautiful views of lakes, rivers, and mountains. We drove along Muncho Lake and pulled into the Lodge to check their gas price. The price on the pump said ‘$1.84/L’. Plugging that into the calculator we found it to be over cdn $7 a gallon, by far the most expensive gas on the route. We drove off, thankful that we had 10 spare gallons in the back.
The sign for Liard Hot Springs is a welcome sight for road weary travelers. We stopped to soak, and watched the sun sink in the sky. It backlit the trees surrounding the pools, casting shadows into the rising steam. After a couple hours, we were back on the road, heading toward Watson Lake, hoping to hit Whitehorse before we stopped for the night.
The next day, on the road between Whitehorse and Haines, the mountains kept getting bigger and whiter. The snow banks grew from one to 15 feet. The dry pavement became snow-drifted ice. All I could think about was standing on top of one of those peaks and skiing powder all the way to the bottom.
When I thought again about the news stories on the radio, I wondered about my indifference toward the problems of the world. As skiers and snowboarders, we live in ski towns so we can escape from that sort of craziness.
Now that we are back in Alaska, all the news hype seems a bit surreal. On the way into Haines, drivers waved at us, even though we probably didn’t know any of them. There was a crew of shovelers teaming up to dig out vehicles in a parking lot.
It was Austrian ski pioneer Hannes Schneider who said after World War I, “If everyone skied, there would be no more wars.” For those of us lucky enough to call ski areas home, it is sometimes easy to take our place on this planet for granted. The outside world can keep all those predicaments, and we will always have our mountains.
Mike Mannelin has been skiing Big Sky with friends for 15 winters. He is a guide for
Alaska Heliskiing, and spends his summers in a remote cabin with his wife, dog and some friendly brown bears.