Written By Forbes contributor Jim Dobson. View original article here.
John Muir, the famed naturalist, wrote in his journal that “you should never go to Alaska as a young man because you’ll never be satisfied with any other place as long as you live.” It is a common sentiment that many visitors feel once they visit this vast, unspoiled and dramatic destination.
I have traveled to Alaska many times in the past and every time I visit I keep a special place in my heart for this state filled with some of the most amazing sporting locations in the world. I was thrilled to set out on a completely new adventure this time around, to the spectacular Tordrillo Mountain Lodge.
Positioned at one of the most diverse mountain ranges in Alaska, Tordrillo Mountain Lodge is a true bucket list destination for all sports enthusiasts. Located in the foothills of the Tordrillo Mountain range on the crystal clear Judd Lake and the opening of the Talachulitna River, Tordrillo Mountain Lodge offers up the most exclusive heli-fishing/heli-skiing and glacier hiking experiences in the entire U.S.
Check out the exclusive video shot for Forbes of the helicopter fishing and glacier adventures:
A quick 40-minute floatplane charter from Anchorage and I was met at the dock and escorted to the main lodge. Actress Sophia Bush was also staying at the Lodge with friends, and we bonded over her outdoor adventures the week prior. It is certainly a good sign when a high-profile guest doesn’t want to leave and raves about the staff.
Olympic gold medalist Tommy Moe, Alaska heli-ski pioneer Mike Overcast and fly fishing expert Mike Rheam founded Tordrillo Mountain Lodge almost 12 years ago and have been sharing the location with skiers, boarders, and adventure seekers from around the world. They are known for discovering more heli-ski terrain than anyone in Alaska and combine their years of exploring and mapping this area with the most accomplished guides, offering up Alaska heli skiing, heliboarding, heli fishing and guided outdoor adventures that are unrivaled.
I took time to explore the six-bedroom Main Lodge, two adjacent luxury one bedroom lakeside cabins, a 4,600 sf, four bedroom lodge located on the far side of the lake and the spectacular Moose Hall and Lakefront lodge with its own private, hot tub, helipad, and Chef. There is also a neighboring Winterlake Lodge that sleeps eight in high season. At the cost of $14,000 per person per week, their Winter season runs from February 16-April 21. This is the ideal time to enjoy some of the very best skiing in the world.
The 5,600 sf Main Lodge was renovated in 2017 and features three levels of living, the lakeside bar and dining room, the large cozy living room with fireplace and the upstairs bedrooms. Guests can also indulge in the lakeside copper hot tub and sauna or have massages in the adjacent spa cabin.
I was anxious to get out into the wilderness and jampacked my schedule full of activities. First up was a helicopter ride to a remote stream for Silver Salmon and Rainbow Trout Alaska fly fishing. Our helicopter pilot for the week was the amazing John Combs from Soloy/Sportsman’s Air Service, chartered for Tordrillo’s guests. Our expert guides included the charming and wilderness smart Lel Tone, Desi Sherwood and Skip Mullen. You can trust your lives to these experts as they know how to create a safe, educational adventure for all guests.
The helicopter journey to the remote rivers is an equal part of the adventure as our pilot showed us the most spectacular landscapes giving us a front row seat to wildlife including Moose and Black Bears frolicking with their babies. This is a vast untouched wilderness that is truly remarkable to witness up close.
Guests are given their own private lure box and waders that keep you dry in the rushing rivers. For city slickers like myself, the guides patiently walk you through every step of fly fishing and fortunately with such a massive supply of fish, everyone is pretty much guaranteed to reel in a spectacular catch. I love that they endorse a catch and release policy which contributes to the fun in competing with your friends for the next biggest catch.
Lunch is also provided at the river bank as the helicopter doubles as a buffet table filled with amazing treats specially prepared by Chef Adam Lassiter. The best tomato soup I have ever had helped wash down the bottles of Veuve champagne.
A full afternoon of fishing and we headed back to the lodge as the misty rain began to fall. A quick shower and it was time to head out again for another special excursion to the stunning Triumvirate Glacier. To fly over a lush mountain range and descend up these river beds devoid of any water and littered for miles with dramatic glaciers is something you will never forget. John landed the helicopter on the dry, rocky terrain, it appeared more like a distant planet than it did Alaska.
One of the best things about Tordrillo Lodge is you are free to create your own itinerary and daily activities, and everyone meets up for dinner in the Main Lodge to share adventures of the day. Sitting down at the large communal table to a gourmet dinner every night is the perfect way to meet new friends. Meals consist of fresh Kachemak Bay oysters, white king salmon, Alaska king crab, halibut, black cod, and scallops as well as specialty game dishes such as elk, lamb, and pheasant. A nightcap in the copper hot tub overlooking the lake is the perfect way to end your day.
Our second day included a morning of fly fishing with Olympian Tommy Moe who regaled us with stories of his years visiting this natural paradise. As our helicopter approached the remote riverbed to land, a massive grizzly bear gently wandered out of our way with his stomach full of trout. It is the magic of witnessing this type of wildlife that makes this adventure so unique and memorable.
The resort arranged for a special surprise for lunch and the helicopter took us on a death-defying Star Wars style journey winding fast through the canyon until we reached the massive glacier plateaus. The fact that our pilot was able to land on such a limited amount of space on the slick ice was remarkable. Dramatic deep crevices surrounded us as we were left with our guide to hike for miles along the barren icy landscape. This was otherworldy for sure and enough to keep your heart racing at all times.
We arrived at our final destination and were treated to a spectacular champagne brunch with a roaring fire built into the icy formations. The lodge managers Jennifer Cornell and Robin McElroy provided the Dom Perignon and appetizers, and we indulged in a three-course gourmet meal, complete with glacier chilled desserts. As the storm clouds approached, we made sure to wrap it up and get back to the lodge for our relaxing final night in paradise.
I spent my final morning enjoying an ATV ride around the resort property with the charming and gregarious Philippe Laffont, an investor in Tordrillo Mountain Lodge and Founder and CEO of Coatue Management. Philippe was immediately drawn to the resort when he visited on a personal vacation and has a lot of fabulous ideas for future expansion of the Lodge.
It was hard to say goodbye to our new friends, but our seaplane was ready to take us back to Anchorage for the flight home. I can now see why so many well-known sports enthusiasts and celebrities like to call Tordrillo Mountain Lodge their favorite winter escape. I can only imagine how perfect this destination will be during the winter months when visitors can get dropped off by helicopter and ski new and uncharted terrain for the ultimate and exclusive adventure.