Q & A with Dan Oberlatz, Co-Founder, Alaska Alpine Adventures, Anchorage, Alaska, USA. Recognized for outstanding tour service by Outside Magazine and by National Geographic Traveler.
“Bringing people closer to nature, history and culture.”
I grew up in Sacramento, California, and spent a lot of time as a kid at our family cabin in Lake Tahoe. During my college years, I spent summers in Tahoe and then moved there after graduation. As a graduation gift to myself, I took my first Alaska backpacking trip with a buddy of mine. We spent 10 days traversing Lake Clark National Park, and that trip changed my life! Two year later, I moved to Lake Clark for the summer and then made my residency permanent in May of 1995. Now I split my time between Lake Clark and Anchorage where I have a home and a family.
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO BECOME A TOUR OPERATOR?
I continued my personal adventures during my twenties and worked just enough to pay for gear and flights into the wilderness. When I turned 30, I had an epiphany during a river trip for the National Park Service. I thought, "This is what I need to do for a living!" So my climbing/skiing partner and I started Alaska Alpine Adventures. Our initial trips were strictly to Lake Clark National Park. Now we explore other areas of Alaska as well.
I think Lake Clark NP is the most amazing place in Alaska! It's been called "Alaska's epitome" - it offers everything you can imagine - miles of coastline, incredible lakes, scenic rivers, glaciers, waterfalls, and steaming volcanoes. It's twice the size of Yellowstone National Park! However, only a few thousand visitors come each year. Considering that it's located only 100 miles from Anchorage, I am surprised it doesn't get more traffic. With no roads and only a few trails, Lake Clark remains mostly wild and untouched, and that suits me just fine!
NOT EVERYONE LIKES TO SPEND THE NIGHT OUTDOORS. PLEASE TELL US ABOUT OTHER OPTIONS.
We run a couple of multi-sport tours that are a good fit for folks who aren't necessarily into camping in the wilderness. Our "Source to Sea" trip is a 12-day adventure that is entirely lodge/hotel based. "Ultimate Alaska" offers 5-nights of lodging, but culminates with 3-night wilderness camping experience deep in the heart of Denali National Park.
Bringing a gourmet element to our trips was my former business partner's passion. He created an amazing menu that was both easy to pack and delicious. Over the years we have really fine-tuned our wilderness cuisine. We now sell it to the general public under our "Adventure Appetites" brand. Pairing Alaska's landscapes and campsites with incredible food is a key factor in our success.
Almost everyone asks about wild bears and how to observe them from a safe distance and how to avoid any negative encounters. My guides encourage campsite conversations, and guests will ask all sorts of questions about Alaska. One thing is for sure, if you travel with me as a guide, you will hear my thoughts on the proposed Pebble Mine and oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge!
1% For the Plant is a global network of over 1200 businesses who donate at least 1% of annual sales to sustainable initiatives through qualified non-profit organizations. In 2015, we met a $10,000+ contribution with donations to the Alaska Center for the Environment, Trout Unlimited, and Crooked Trails and their efforts to rebuild Nepal after the earthquake of 2015.
Many of our upcoming scheduled trips are indeed already fully booked. We do have a number of spaces still open for backpacking trips to Lake Clark, Denali, and Gates of the Arctic.
WHAT WILL GUESTS REMEMBER FROM THIS EXPERIENCE?
I really want guests to walk away completely awestruck by Alaska and their experience with us. I want them to see the value in wilderness and solitude, to feel the catharsis of disconnecting from our hyper-connected world. I'm most grateful when a satisfied guest emails me after a trip and says that he or she is having a hard time concentrating at work due to "post-Alaska euphoria." That's when I know I've done my job well!
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