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Our Alaska: Alyeska's 'awesome' Chugach Open

Katie Medred
A competitor makes his way down Headwall during the Alyeska Chugach Open in 2011. Jonathan Gurry photo, courtesy Alyeska Resort

The Chugach Open, Alyeska Resort's multi-discipline big mountain competition for skiers and boarders, is scheduled to take place in Girdwood this weekend. The two day competition begins Friday, but there's already been a big change.

The event, which is open to alpine, snowboard and Telemark athletes, is traditionally held at Alyeska's Headwall, a mountain location often closed to the general public. But Alyeska Marketing Manger Ben Napolitano said Thursday the location has been changed.

"We've moved the Open from Headwall to North Face," Napolitano said. Forecasted weekend snowfall and potentially poor visibility prompted race officials to relocate, but the switch isn't being perceived as a setback. "(North Face's) terrain is very similar (to Headwall). It's steep, there's cliff bands and other similar features," Napolitano said.

Girdwood is expected to see continuous snowfall throughout the weekend and visibility on the mountain is likely to be poor.

"It's actually starting to snow (now)," Napolitano said Thursday afternoon. "We're forecasted to get . . . somewhere between 7 to 14 inches over the weekend. That's what they're calling for."

Despite the location change, Napolitano is confident the Open will be fun. "(The) snow is actually really really awesome, it's just the visibility, man!"

Last winter may have been the mother of all winters for record snowfall in Southcentral Alaska, but don't let the nostalgia fool you. Though it pales in comparison, this winter hasn't been too bad. Sure, the snowfall hasn't been insane, but Alyeska is reporting good numbers. So far the 2012-13 season has seen 677 inches on Mount Alyeska at the top of Chair 6. That's 301 inches shy of last year's record-breaking 978 inches, but winter's not over yet.

The Open is now closed to competitors, but if you're interested in watching the event, Napolitano recommends accessing North Face via Chuck's Gate, and skiing to the groomer on Autobahn. "Once on the groomer," Napolitano explained. "They can post up anywhere and watch."

Napolitano warns, however, if you're not a double-black-diamond skier or snowboarder, don't attempt the trek.

For more on the Alyeska Chugach Open including a schedule of events visit the calendar listing.

Our Alaska takes a look at the people, places, activities and wildlife that make Alaska great. There's the Alaska that many people know from reality television, and then there's Our Alaska. If you have a video that puts the spotlight on the positive, educational or unique aspects of Alaska and its people, send links or submissions to ben(at)alaskadispatch.com.