The Sphinx, Alaska

In year four of Cody Townsend’s “The Fifty Project,” we’re showcasing his lines and route descriptions in onX Backcountry. Go deeper on The Fifty Project and get the beta from Cody on how he plans, executes, and conquers these 50 descents.

Watch The Fifty: The Sphinx

In 2019, The Fifty Project sent it to Alaska to attempt a modern ski classic, The Sphinx. Yet, the puckering steeps, cruel exposure, and hardpack conditions sent the crew home with their cumulative tails between their legs and the line unfinished. Three years of watching the weather, conditions, and stability reports from thousands of miles away, a miraculous window beckoned in April of 2022. A mad dash scramble the day after skiing Line 37 of The Fifty, became a strike mission to Cordova, Alaska and the base of Points North Heli-Adventures.

View Cody’s Line in onX Backcountry

  Below is an interactive map of Cody’s line on The Sphinx. Use Control + Drag to rotate in 3D on desktop or two fingers to pinch, zoom, and rotate on mobile.  Login or create an account to gain full functionality.

The Fifty Project Guidebook: The Sphinx

onX Backcountry has partnered with Cody Townsend to bring you guidebook quality descriptions of routes in The Fifty Project from Cody himself. Read his beta on The Sphinx below. Start your free trial of onX Backcountry today to view these lines and descriptions in the App.


This is one of the lines that ignited the heli-skiing revolution in Alaska, and one of the most aesthetic, perfect faces in all of skiing. The diamond shaped face is steep and unrelenting in its pitch until the crossing of the bergshrund at the bottom.

Photo: @the.fifty.project

Ascent Description

Almost exclusively, this line is ridden with the assistance of a Eurocopter AS350 Helicopter via Points North Heli Adventures out of Cordova, Alaska. For those crazy enough to turn down the helicopter ride to the top, the ascent involves glacier navigation, a difficult bergshrund crossing, and very steep and exposed climbing. Technical snow climbing and ski mountaineering equipment like ropes, crampons, climbing plates, ice axes, and more are required. Nerves of steel keep the fear at bay and the focus in check as you ascend a steep face with fall-you-die exposure. Lastly, to get to the face itself, you’re either subject to a multi-day human powered expedition of great magnitude or hiring Points North Heli to bring you out.

Photo: @the.fifty.project

The Descent

The descent is steep, exposed, and all the things that make Alaska the pinnacle of freeride skiing. The scary blind rollover at the top is met by a 50-degree double fall-line ramp to the exit. Slough is a major hazard on the descent and managing that is crucial. You either ski the 2,000 foot face like one of the best freeskiers in history and out-race your slough to the bottom or you ski it like a mortal and manage your slough and let it pass before crossing the bergshrund. Whatever way you ski The Sphinx, you’ll be remember it forever.

Photo: @BjarneSalen


Avalanches, cornice fall, a bergshrund crossing, glacier navigation, and very steep and exposed climbing are all hazards on this route. Anything falling on you from above could be fatal and self-arresting after a fall while skiing is unlikely. This is a serious line with serious consequences.

Photo: @the.fifty.project

Exit Description

Get picked up by the helicopter and flown back to Points North Heli Lodge for an apres beer.

Photo: @the.fifty.project

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