Skiing the Tordrillos: Less About the Snow & More About the People

Professional Skier Michelle Parker smiling out of her tent in the Tordrillo Mountains, writing in her notebook

It's less about the snow, and more about the people...

Packing your bags for a glacier trip is an important task. You will be dropped off by plane into an environment where modern day humans have not typically lived. You will be outside of your normal comfort zone, and everything you pack has a purpose, often times that is to keep you alive.

Other times, that purpose is to make an uncomfortable situation as comfortable as you can so that you can enjoy your environment without the voluntary sufferfest that may ensue should you not pack properly. There are only a few items that no matter the purpose, always make the packing list. One of course would be Darn Tough’s Merino Wool ski socks. You can guarantee that I always have a pair of the Outer Limits packed, the perfect sock for a crucial job.

Michelle Parker pulling out the Outer Limits ski socks, getting ready to ski

And while the socks serve an incredibly important job of keeping my feet warm and able to perform my job, skiing, another must pack item is the crew that you surround yourself with. They have the equally important task of keeping your soul warm.

As I continue to grow, I’ve realized the importance of not so much the task at hand, but those who you’re with that matters most. And like my Darn Tough’s, it’s the quality of the company you keep that makes all the difference.

Delayed by Snow & Wind

There is one trip in particular trip where this lesson really began to sink in. I was heading to the Tordrillo Mountains in Alaska. We were scheduled to take a plane into the mountains near the beginning of April and the forecast was grim. They were calling for a substantial Alaskan style ten foot dump of new snow followed by wind speeds topping out at 170 miles per hour and air temps far below freezing.

Michelle Parker at the top of a snow-covered slope in the Tordrillo Mountains

We were there to film a ski segment for Matchstick Productions, and despite our greatest efforts to beat the storm and fly into the mountains before it hit, the storm ultimately beat us. We sat in Anchorage day after day obsessing over weather as you do, and staying occupied by heated games of Catan. 

I’ll spare you the details of our delay, but it wouldn’t be for another 11 days that we would fly out into the mountains and get dropped off for our adventure on the glacier.

Michelle Parker carrying her skis through some crazy ice formations

At that point, it truly felt as though winter had changed to spring. The snow was variable and didn’t inspire the type of skiing you see in ski movies which is what we were here to do. The sun was out and there wasn’t a drop of precipitation in the forecast.

My Older and Younger Self

Michelle Parker skiing out toward a dramatic mountain Ridgeline

Ultimately, creating a segment for the new Matchstick Productions movie was going to be a challenge. However, setting up base camp under towering peaks of complex terrain, imagining what this place would look like plastered with a blanket of fresh snow, daydreaming, my mind wasn’t really too worried about said segment. 

Maybe in years past I would have felt disappointed that the conditions weren’t lining up, but with so many years of being a professional skier whose job often depends on the weather, you learn to let go of things you cannot control.

Pro skier Michelle Parker catching some air headed down a slope

The older version of myself is constantly learning about longevity, how can I keep skiing until I’m 100 years old? The younger version of myself was fixated on the now, not as much concerned with my future self. 

This Family

So there I was, staring up at towering peaks, with my Darn Toughs on my feet, reminiscent of my imagination while reading a Dr. Seuss book as a child.

We skied every day and got well acquainted with the mountains surrounding us. We dreamt of skiing lines beyond our reach. We wondered if there was powder in the range at all. We watched each other ski with joy. We witnessed northern lights colored different shades of greens dancing in the sky.

A view of the Northern Lights from basecamp

We ate together, hiked together, cooked together, and laughed together. We got extra excited when good snow was found. We built a tiny family out on the glacier, and while our trip was impermanent, that family bond will be forever.

If there is one thing I know for sure - the reason I came all the way up here to Alaska in search of good snow in the Tordrillos was actually less about the snow and more about this family.

At the end of the day, what brings me the most joy wasn’t a certain turn or any type of snow, it was the laughter that came from deep within our bellies while entertaining ourselves out in the middle of nowhere. And of course, my Darn Tough ski socks, too.

Michelle Parker seated by her tent, her darn tough ski socks drying in the sun

About the Author

Michelle Parker has been a professional skier for over half of her life. With a deep love for the mountains, sleeping in the dirt, skiing, mountain biking, skipping rocks, photography, ukulele, climbing, old growth forests, and long walks with friends for turns she loves her time spent outside. Her favorite Darn Tough socks are the Women's Outer Limits ski and snowboard socks.