By Chris Cocoles
First and foremost, Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone gets to enjoy some turkey -or whatever holiday meal you traditionally enjoy- and some football, today.
When I talked to Alaskan adopted native son Tommy Moe, one of the more iconic men’s skiers in United States history, I could tell in our 45-minute conversation how much he loves life. What’s not to love? If you ski, fish and paddle, which I discovered are all passions of Moe, you have all those bases covered if you’re Tommy Moe. He spends most of year living in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and as a part owner of an Alaskan lodge skis and takes guests on fishing trips, all in the same day! My conversation with Moe, who won a gold medal in the downhill and silver in the super G at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, is running in the December issue. Here’s part of our conversation, with some photos, courtesy of the Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, which Moe co-owns:
CC Tell me how buying the lodge came about.
TM I think it was in 1997; my brother, Michael, my friends, Mike Overcast and Victor Duncan, and I did a hunting trip on this remote river way up in Skwenta in the Central Alaska Range. We did some Dall sheep hunting and some caribou hunting. And we flew to this river and were dropped in the boonies for like 10 days. We floated down the river for about 80 miles. We looked at the mountain ranges and thought ‘Wow, that looks like it would be good skiing.’ We came around the corner and kept looking at these huge glaciers and steep mountains. We told ourselves we needed to come back and ski this. The next year we pulled together some resources.
We all pitched in a couple thousand dollars, rented a helicopter and flew out there. We found this lodge we could base out of, we pioneered some of the ski terrain, we flew to the rivers and checked out the fishing. We had an idea to start what we called the “Kings and Corn” program for fishing and skiing. We did some great rafting. We did that at the lodge for six years, and in 2004 we were looking at our own place. We found this Tordrillo Mountain Lodge on Judd Lake. We had to find some investors and ended up buying it in 2005. And now we have a great business in the winter, and our summer business does well. Mike and I are still the founders/owners. And it’s such a beautiful property.
CC Talk about your lodge’s “Cast and Carve” heli-skiing and heli-fishing package for guests. I love the idea of what a rush that must be, to combine salmon fishing and skiing on the same summer day.
TM We try to ski in the morning when the snow is usually at its best. We’ll try to wear people out. We’ll ski the corn and go out on like three runs, which is perfect. We’ll have a little mountaintop lunch, take some pictures, look at some wildlife and then fly around to do a little sightseeing from the chopper. Then we fly back to the lodge, take off all our ski gear and change sports. We’ll put on our fishing waders, get the fishing gear and then float down the river that’s right there near our lodge. So it’s kind of multi-sport because you really can’t do that anywhere else in the world that easily. We try to mix it up so people can ski and fish and raft, all in one day. Then they can fly back to the lodge, have a nice meal, jump in the hot tub and sauna, pass out and do it again. You don’t get a lot of sleep in the summer because it’s so light. Sometimes we’ll eat dinner a little earlier and then take them out skiing afterward because you get the nice evening light. It’s also kind of a unique experience.
CC Is there an epic fishing experience from Alaska that you can share?
TM A couple years ago I had a group up from the Midwest, and the fishing was really good; the skiing was really good. We ended up flying down the river, and everybody was catching kings like every 10 minutes. That went on and on; we’d get them in the boat, then we’re taking pictures and letting them go. This one guy hooked into a really big salmon. I thought this was unbelievable that he was going to get this fish in. I didn’t have a net because we were sitting in this raft when we were fishing. The guy got it all the boat and I couldn’t really grab it by the head. And I ended up grabbing it by the tail and I could barely lift it into the raft. From the photos we saw it was over 50 or more pounds. It was like 58 inches on and like 30 inches round. It was just a massive salmon. He ended up letting it go because it was catch-and-release then. I think in fishing up there for over 15 years now I’ve only caught two fish of over 50 pounds. Those were definitely trophies.