The snows of years past

by • October 31, 2016 • Feature Photos, ToastComments (0)801


From the vault: Twenty years ago, deep snow in the middle of winter was a given. Even 10 years ago, we could count on a solid season of fun. Melissa DeVaughn enjoys a backcountry ski in Sterling with friend Dave Atcheson, some 20 years ago.

Season’s change brings anticipation that snow indeed will come

I’ve spent the past month going through old print photos and scanning them into digital prints. It’s a tedious process that has been on the years-long to-do list, waiting for me to get around to it. I don’t know what mental branch broke this fall, but I finally decided now is the time to make these memories last forever.

No one warned me, though, about just how long this daunting process would take. Sure, the actual act of scanning is a mere 10 seconds. Stack the photos on the glass, shut the lid, push the button, and presto – the old prints are forever digitized and categorized in an external hard drive for just that purpose.

It’s the in-between stacking that takes so long because every single photo that comes out of the box or is peeled from the album is another memory, flooding my brain and reminding me of all that has happened in my 21-plus years here in Alaska.


Melissa Devaughn drives her dog team along the frozen shores of Tustumena Lake on a camping trip with her husband, Andy Hall, and Kenai friends John Bramante and Gus Guenther.

A lot of those old photos feature something we Alaskans have been sorely missing the last few years: Snow. Running the dog team on freshly groomed trails at Beach Lake. Teaching the kids how to ski on their very first pair of Nordic skis. Dog-mushing camping trip on Lake Tustumena. Learning how to snowboard with a guide at Alyeska. Backcountry skiing with a friend on the Kenai Peninsula. The snowy adventures are endless, and the photos reopened those memories anew. I began to realize that winter in Alaska really can be fun.

This month’s issue of Coast is much the same as those photos. What started out as a small story about three great ski and snowboard films premiering this month turned into a gold mine of film clips, interviews and photos that are making me want to run up the credit card and book some backcountry ski tours to last me well into the spring. After all, even though our snowless winters at sea level have been less than ideal, up high in Alaska’s mountains, there is always fresh powder to be found. Read about all three of these films beginning on Page 8, and mark your calendars – every one of these excellent films gets your adventure vibes thrumming.

Autumn in October is sort of like the New Year, wherein we can hope anew that this season will be the one in which the snow dumps on us three feet at a time. It’s when we can fantasize that it will indeed stay cold enough all winter that when the occasional Chinook blows through we can enjoy the respite from the cold and not worry that it will melt away the paltry two inches we have on the ground.

In short, October is a time when snow dreams are in our minds and we still have faith that winter will come through for us. Let’s keep those snow vibes going and maybe this year – finally – we will get to enjoy a real winter again.

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