25 days in Alaska

24 Apr, 2012

The first day I fell in love with Valdez was when I walked around town and took in the breathtaking harbor in the middle of the peaks that surround the town. The next day I fell more in love when I was standing on the top of my first run at Thompson Pass by myself thinking about how I got there, how my entire riding experience has led to this moment and how it was up to me to make it down.

I was in Alaska for 25 days over the past couple weeks, I flew in early to help get ready for Tailgate AK and left a couple days after the event ended. My role with Tailgate AK was to make sure the media and VIP’s were taken care of for the 12 days of the event. I drove the shuttle with contest winners, pros, photographers, filmers, writers and whoever else jumped in. We had some early mornings, a good amount of late nights and lots of funny moments to add to the occasion.

Nico and myself on Thompson Pass

This was my first time at Thompson Pass and I didn’t push it. I rode stuff that didn’t scare me other than the thought in the back of my mind that I still need to be aware of my surroundings. My favorite days were sled laps with Tony thanks to Gilly and the two snowcat days I had. For the limited amount of riding during my time in AK, I actually got quite a few runs and good powder turns.

Photo: Aaron Gotthardt

Probably the scariest moment came on a down day when a group of us went to explore the abandoned train tunnel outside of Valdez. To get into the tunnel meant crawling headfirst, legs up in the air, through a tiny hole under concrete. I honestly didn’t think I would fit through it but somehow managed to get in. It was worth it to explore and Reid and Merth from Bomb Snow Magazine captured it perfectly. Of course on the way out, I got stuck when you don’t want to be stuck and ended up in a bit of a panic but luckily I did make it out.

Top: Tony, Shay, Peter, Jimmy

Bottom: Reid, Micah, Merth, Nathalie

Photo: Bomb Snow Magazine

The best part about Alaska was crossing paths with amazing people. So many people from so many different parts of the world of snowboarding came to be part of the experience. When I first arrived, I rode a snowcat with a crew from around Alaska and by the end of the day, we were getting drinks, having dinner and just having a good time outside of snowboarding. Later on in the trip, I was able to spend time with many of the media and photographers that I’ve come to admire. There were days where a familiar face like Mark Carter, Scotty Lago or Kevin Jones would be sitting next to me. It really opened up this whole world of snowboarding and made it real. The people in Alaska made Alaska everything for me.

I wish I could say I dropped in the steepest runs or rode the gnarliest terrain of my life but I didn’t…I did however have a good time with a great crew of people that I now consider friends.

Myself in the ice cave

Photo: Bomb Snow Magazine

 If you have the opportunity to be part of the experience, go for it. It’s a whirlwind of snowboarding, sledding, parties and mountains but it’s worth it to meet the people that share the same love you do.

About the author


From the beginning of time, I was Shannon. From the beginning of snowboarding, I was Shay. From the beginning of online communities, I was Shayboarder. In the end, I’m the writer, photographer, editor, publisher, guru of sorts, product tester, curvy girl, and most importantly the snowboarder behind it all. Follow me on this journey through snowboarding, mountain biking, traveling and fun experiences!

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  1. cody
    April 24, 2012

    Next year for sure!!! has to happen! great post 🙂

  2. April 24, 2012

    great post! is Tailgate Alaska an invite only thing?

  3. April 24, 2012

    Cody, I hope you make it!

    Katie, nope it’s open to anyone who wants to go.

  4. coreyg
    April 24, 2012


  5. April 30, 2012

    Great story and pics Shay! Looks amazing. So jealous.

  6. Jim Shorts
    April 30, 2012

    Very shay – Shay