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The Classic Line | The Sphinx | Ascent Backcountry Snow Journal

The vantage is one I have never experienced on skis. Gravity is pulling me down, but my edges dig in to counter the force. Gaining rhythm, the sensation of my body weight rolling over my ankles is pure bliss. The slope is steep, relentless in its pitch, but the snow is perfect. Each turn is special. The face never lets up until I’m in the air, clearing the gaping bergschrund at the bottom. At this point in my life as a skier, I’m certain that I have never experienced something so close to perfection.

Nestled deep in the mighty Chugach Range, The Sphinx has long been admired as a classic ski line unlike anything else. It was first ridden by Jim Rippey on a snowboard, and Doug Coombs on skis-two of the most respected pioneers in the history of snowsliding. A true classic needs to embody the words shared by Merriam-Webster, “a work of enduring excellence.” In that spirit, The Sphinx owns those words in spades. One of “The Big 5” of the Chugach, these lines are accepted within the greater ski community as a group of lines that are the best of the best. In the author’s opinion it’s true. Nothing compares to nailing Alaska at its best. Having traveled the globe for years, when the conditions are right, it is the best snow on the best terrain in the world.

Whether you’ve spent years skiing in Alaska, or simply have the dream of making it one day, these “Big 5” lines play a role. In film, in magazines, and in stories, there’s a reason they are so coveted. However, as unique as each line is, The Sphinx stands alone. Look at it. Where have you ever seen a face that looks like that? Where else on the planet could something like that also hold snow that’s literally perfection for the snowslider? It’s barely a 2000’ descent, but with a high 50+ degree pitch that never lets up you better believe it’s quite literally the run of a lifetime.

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