Alaska News

AK Beat: After second death, Haines heli-ski guides close for season

After second death, Haines heli-skiing operation ends season: A Haines-based company that has seen two heli-ski guides die in the past two years has now closed for the season, the Chilkat Valley News reports. The shutdown at Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures comes as authorities investigate the death of 31-year-old guide Aaron Karitis from Bend, Ore. Karitis was critically injured in a March 15 avalanche in the Kicking Horse Valley. He died two days later in an Anchorage hospital. Thirty-four-year-old guide Christian Arcadio Cabanilla died in a snowslide in the same area in March 2012. An investigation into Cabanilla's death led federal authorities to the discovery that SEABA, as the backcountry ski company is known locally, was operating without proper permits. The company subsequently agreed to pay the U.S. Bureau of Land Management more than $20,000 in fees and fines to settle its permitting oversight. Mid-March to mid-April is considered the prime heli-skiing season in Alaska, but great skiing on corn snow continues into May and even June in parts of the state.

Raising sled dogs in Manhattan: A video produced for the New York Times Sunday Vows section highlights couple Samantha Berkule and Scott Johnson, owners of the two-dog "micro-kennel" named Gotham Kennel, which the pair bills as "Manhattan's only sled dog kennel." The two race with Sheba (who's bloodlines go back to Susan Butcher, according to their website) and Leyla -- mostly in the Northeast, though their site says they race in Alaska as well. The Times video shows the dogs running on snow, and running in the city, but -- alas -- no footage of them sledding through Central Park.

Good conditions greet White Mountains 100 start: The White Mountains 100 got started at 8 a.m. Sunday morning. The human powered race sees competitors travel 100 miles through the White Mountains National Recreational area north of Fairbanks, in one of three categories: bike, foot, or ski. "Conditions are excellent for a fast race," reported race officials. Although it's only in its fifth year, the race has drawn a following among the adventure-racing crowd. This year it filled all 65 slots and had athletes on a waiting list to get in. Most hail from Alaska, but athletes from Colorado, New Mexico, California, and New Jersey traveled to Alaska's Interior to compete, too.

More autonomy, more infrastructure in the Northwest Territories: In a bid to develop more mining and petroleum -- and to benefit from such -- royalties, Canada's Northwest Territories is on the verge of gaining greater autonomy. But that autonomy also means the territory will need more money for infrastructure, which is why it's seeking authority to extend it's borrowing ability, reports the Windsor Star. If things go as planned, it may lead to the development of a rich but logistically challenging shale play in the Mackenzie Valley.

Craig Medred

Craig Medred is a former writer for the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch and Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2015.