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Heli-Skiing in Alaska with Ted Ligety and Marcus Caston

Ski racers Ted Ligety and Marcus Caston find a hairy introduction to heli-skiing in Alaska.
By Brigid Mander
image-ligety article 0
Photograph by Marcus Caston

In a segment for this year’s flick, Flow State, Warren Miller Entertainment camera crews followed Ted Ligety and his friend Marcus Caston up to Alaska to shred some rowdy powder lines. It was a unique opportunity for both skiers to gain experience in Alaskan-style skiing, as well as Marcus’s first experience filming with Warren Miller.

Ted invited his friend and ski buddy from Salt Lake as the ideal ski partner to have along, for a couple of reasons. “Marcus is a Shred and Slytech athlete, friend and an amazing skier that needed an opportunity to show the world what he could do,” said Ligety.

Both Ligety and Caston come from a racing background, but while Ted is still on the US Ski Team and at the top of the global GS scene, Marcus has branched out to become a big mountain skier based at Alta and Snowbird, Utah, a racer on the Rahlves Banzai Tour, and an action photographer. The two friends headed to Chugach Powder Guides and Alyeska to check out the world of heli-accessed powder slaying.

Neither skier had spent much time on big Alaskan spines, so it was a new experience for both of them. Big mountain veteran and fellow WME athlete Phil Meier gave them an immediate taste of what can happen in big, uncontrolled terrain. Meier cut loose a huge slide on the first run of the first day, and while he pulled his airbag and managed to safely ride it out, it was a hairy introduction for his two protégées.

“Before I got to Alaska, I thought I would have no problem simply stepping out of the heli, and start crushing; it quickly became apparent that there is a learning curve not to be missed out on,” said Caston. “The mountains were much bigger, steeper, and longer than I ever would have thought. Everything in Alaska is on a different level of huge.”

Ligety, who has been heli-skiing in Alaska only once before, was in the same boat as his friend – they mostly followed Phil’s example and advice. “I didn't have any advice for Marcus, he rips powder far more then I do. He found his rhythm right away up there. Phil was really both of our mentors. The guides and Phil were great for helping show newbies like Marcus and I what was possible and getting us safely into gnarly lines,” said Ligety. 

Marcus agreed. “Both Ted and I were total beginners skiing the big Alaska mountains. It’s sickly comforting to see the world’s greatest GS skier just as scared as you are, but it somehow leads to a mutual understanding and trust of one another. Phil was the veteran, and the greatest asset in showing us how it’s done.” 

Despite the unsettling beginning, Marcus stepped up to the plate and showed that he could handle the terrain like a pro. “After a couple runs to get our feet under us, he was sending. It was really fun to watch, said Ligety.

“I definitely walked away from this experience with a whole new respect for skiers that play in mountains like those,” said Caston.

“I feel super honored that Ted and WME would give me an opportunity like this to go to Alaska and show the world how I can ski.  This was my first filming experience of my freeski career, and I’m truly honored it could be with WME.” 

“It's hard not to get hooked after see what is possible in AK,” said Ted. And it looks like it isn’t the last we will hear of Marcus either, thanks to Ligety. Said Marcus, “I am totally hooked on Alaska, and looking forward to making this an annual stop.”