Skiing Alaska by Boat with Connery Lundin
Speaking to us from his cabin in Tahoma, California, on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe, Connery Lundin is his relaxed self. Strands of the blonde surfer hair that graced the cover of one of Powder Magazine’s final issues this winter match his laid-back California surfer personality.
In a ski season where skiing, and snow, were in high demand under uncharted circumstances, Connery found himself fielding offers to appear in two ski movies being produced by two of the industry’s leading production companies: Matchstick Productions and Warren Miller Entertainment. Lundin sat down with us to give an inside peek into how the magic of his forthcoming Warren Miller segment came together. Aside from filming his MSP segment at his home mountain of Squaw Valley, which experienced below average snowfall like many of its Western US neighbors, Connery wound up in Alaska fishing for powder.
Filming for Warren Miller led Connery to Alaska to showcase his big mountain skiing in what he describes as “the most interesting trip I’ve done in a while.” This marked a big first for Connery, as it began by “floating around the Prince William Sound.” The sound consists of a series of islands between the fishing town of Whittier and the port city of Valdez, at the base of the Chugach Mountains. Along with his good pal, Marcus Caston, Connery ventured throughout the sound; ski touring between 2,000 and 5,000 vertical feet per day in the swaths of untracked mountains which tower over the gulf of Alaska.
Connery's experience staying on the Babkin--a 60-foot long retired fishing boat--in close quarters with Caston, the film crew, and the Captain Alex, (who Connery characterizes as a “badass Alaskan woman”) was nothing short of a once in a lifetime adventure for most. Captain Alex who has grown up touring the Prince William Sound by boat and venturing up into the mountains on skis truly defines the lifestyle that the film project set out to capture. “You function as a whole team out there”, says Connery of “boat life”, adding that even on “mellow” seas that include waves up to eight feet tall, ensuring everything runs smoothly is a group effort. The crew even managed to catch a singular crab along the way.
After eight days on the Babkin, however, the crew disembarked to spend a subsequent week heli-skiing the Chugach Mountains just outside of Valdez. The dynamic of the trip changed significantly for Lundin and the crew as slow life on the water transitioned overnight into the fast-paced experience of heli-skiing. “It went from polar opposite trips basically”, Connery said of the way his mindset shifted. “You go from boat life, traveling 15 miles per hour, where it takes you 8 hours to go from run to run, to being in a helicopter where you go from eating bacon and eggs in the lodge to being on to being on top of a terrifying line fifteen minutes later.” A helicopter crash the day they returned to shore--which resulted in the tragic deaths of five passengers--weighed heavily on the minds of the crew throughout their trip. Connery admitted that his laid-back demeanor was challenged by the abrupt transition to jumping into the helicopter with a pilot he didn’t know.
“I learned a lot on this trip”, Connery reflected, as he thought back to what he learned about the mountains during his immersion on this trip. “Being in a helicopter in Alaska, you kind of develop a sense of the edge of what a helicopter can do”, he continued. “It’s chaos, and it’s terrifying, and it’s intense and you’re looking at this run that there’s only one way to get down. And then it’s peaceful and calming and scary and beautiful all at once after you get out.” All that is truly saying something, coming from a skier who’s unafraid to get inverted on some of the world’s gnarliest terrain.
Besides his two-week adventure in Alaska, Connery has since retired back to his native Lake Tahoe. Until the summer is in full swing, and Lundin can break out his surfboard, golf clubs, climbing gear, and mountain bike, Connery’s spending most of his days cruising the Squaw Valley terrain park. If anything’s for certain, it’s good to be Connery.