Tailgate Alaska – The Ultimate Grassroots Event at Thompson Pass, AK
Dave Norona | On 22, Apr 2018
I hope founder Mark Sullivan is not upset with me for labelling Tailgate Alaska a grassroots event. After all, it does exhibit all the earmarks of a professionally-organized event. In the 10 years since its inception, Tailgate Alaska has hosted top-tier professional athletes such as legendary snowboarder Travis Rice; it has brought on big-time sponsors like Redbull; and, it is held in one of the most epic and beautiful places on the planet. But none of those things are what truly sets Tailgate apart from every other event. What does then, you ask? It’s all about the people!
Tailgate Alaska – The Ultimate Grassroots Event
Tailgate Alaska is an on-snow event that takes place each spring at Thompson Pass, AK. The site is a 45-minute drive uphill from the beautiful town of Valdez. Hosted by Dustin James and his awesome staff, Tailgate Alaska is where skiers, snowboarders and sledders come together to share their respective sports, in one of the most breathtaking places.
I attended Tailgate four years ago with my awesome teammate and sledding superstar, Ashley Chaffin. Ashley was born and raised in Valdez, so this event is near-and-dear to her heart. And so is the Thompson Pass riding area that literally goes on forever!
I was excited to get back to Tailgate, and flying into the small town of Valdez is always a treat. The quaint little town of 3500 residents is nestled right at the water’s edge. The population doubles in size through the summer months, with incredible fishing, camping and other summer adventure activities.
A Day at Tailgate
Each morning at Tailgate, people head off touring, on sleds, in helicopters and every other mode of travel you can imagine. They all do it to paint a new adventure on these incredible mountains. In the evening, they return back to camp with awesome stories, photos and—most importantly—huge smiles that they share with everyone else around a blazing fire.
It was super cool this year to have the Ski-Doo demo semi-truck—loaded with 2019 Summits and Freerides—at Tailgate, offering free demos for anyone. It was great catching up with the crew over dinner and beers!
Over the next three days, we rode Alaskan pow, sled-skied and snowboarded, and shared the demo fleet with both new and experienced riders.
In the evenings there were always little events springing up, like impromptu snowskate contests that quickly got rowdy with more beers and fire.
And each night finished with a huge bonfire where everyone gathered to share all the awesomeness that had been enjoyed that day!
Tailgate Alaska Is All About the People
I have been lucky to travel to more than 400 destination races, events and parties throughout the world. I did this first as a racer, and now as a guy who just likes to be around fun and energetic people! The latter is what separates Tailgate from most events, where ego and gnarl can sometimes override the fun. Not so at Tailgate.
If you like adventure and have never been up north, then you absolutely need to put Tailgate Alaska on your list of events to hit!
Dave Norona is a professional adventure athlete who rides for Ski-Doo and loves Fire and Beer! You can follow his adventures @davenorona