Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave...

My friend Kate has lived in Cordova for quite a while now. Kate was an all-star ski racer out of Fairbanks a while back, and when it was time for college she chose the right color - green.  But it wasn't UAA's shade of green.  It was Dartmouth green. After a successful college racing career she spent some time racing for the Rossignol team, chasing the elite circuit around before moving back to Alaska and settling in Cordova - one of the prettiest little towns you could ever wish to see.

Here's a picture I took in Cordova one time.

Karin is another friend of mine.  She lives in Switzerland. The first time I ever met Karin, it was at Kincaid Park, about fifteen years ago when I was introduced to her by her University of Denver teammate, Tara.  I'd known Tara for many years because she grew up in Anchorage and distinguished herself by beating her friend Kikkan Randall time after time, after time, after time (four times in a row for those keeping score) at the Alaska State High School Championships.  Neither Kikkan nor anyone else of that generation ever managed to win a high school state championship during that time because Tara won them all.

A few years later, after graduating from University of Denver, Karin moved to Bozeman, Montana to get a master's degree in exercise physiology while skiing professionally for Rossignol.  Kate was Karin's Rossi teammate and they graciously let me tag along for a little pre-championship high-altitude training camp (based out of Karin's apartment in Bozeman in 2006) when I suddenly got the urge to race at the US Nationals that year.

So anyway, I was sitting next to Kate on a flight out of Cordova a few months ago when she told me she was moving to Unalaska, a remote industrial (fishing) outpost in the Aleutian Islands, and she mentioned that Karin was going to come from Switzerland for a visit. A few months passed, and I found myself, as I often do, sitting in the departure area at the Anchorage airport, waiting for a flight to Unalaska that would never go because of - as always - stormy weather in the Aleutians. Predictably, the flight was cancelled and as I was leaving the airport, Karin suddenly appeared out of nowhere and told me she had been waiting for the same flight! She was stranded in Anchorage for at least the next day while she tried to figure out how she was going to get to Unalaska. Not having seen Karin since that time many years ago when I stopped by her house in Davos for some SpƤtzli, and with a suddenly very free schedule for the afternoon, we decided to jump in the car go for a day hike.

Sunday, July 1, 2018


It's the first day of July. And everyone knows what that means; it's time to go skiing. We went out to our local snowfield this afternoon and did a few laps in the summer sunshine.

All in all, a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Tour de Turnagain

There's never a bad day to be in Alaska. But recent days, in the summer sunshine, are nicer than the dark, rainy days of October for sure. Skippy and Yvonne invited me to go hiking with them in the mountains above Turnagain Arm on Saturday.

The nicest part of a hike in the mountains is the part when you get home... and your friend Deb invites you to gather up some skis and join her for a little skiing at Eagle Glacier the next morning. If you've been following this blog, you know that Deb is in the business of flying helicopters. So you know Skippy and I were desperately hoping Sunday would remain clear and sunny so we could fly up to the glacier and ski!

Skippy's job was to hold the ski equipment in her lap. I don't think she minded.

The flight up to Eagle Glacier.

The scenery was nice.

Shane, our pilot, pointed out the ski trail that the coaches had groomed the night before for a week-long APU Elite Team training camp.

Landing at the Thomas Training Center beside Eagle Glacier. I spent a fair amount of time in this building in the 1990's and I can attest that after APU's improvements to the building, the living arrangements are a lot more plush and comfortable now than they were back then.

APU Head Coach Erik Flora and Deb Essex discuss logistics or strategy or something, while Skippy makes a beeline for the ski trails.

First day of the first ski camp of the summer - all smiles. Erik Packer, former Seawolf Sadie Bjornsen, and Rosie Brennan, ready to ski!
Here are the APU boys coming around for another seven kilometer lap.

We sure appreciated Alpine Air and pilot Shane taking us skiing! The Chugach Mountains are mostly covered in snow and ice year-round, and seeing this country from a helicopter is like nothing else! And it was so generous of the athletes and coaches at APU to share their training trails with us for an couple of hours. I always feel really fortunate when I get a chance to ski a lap behind someone like Erik Packer or Sadie Bjornsen, and pleased with myself for being able to keep up, even if they're at super-easy training pace and I'm redlining at 20% above race pace.

But our weekend wasn't over yet. Skippy was finishing off a "volume week" of training and was looking for a nice long workout to finish things off. So after skiing, we drove a little farther south to the Kenai Peninsula to spend a few hours riding fifty miles on our bikes.

The road to Hope.

The ocean. (and Skippy)

The weekend was a success.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Training Triathlon

Springtime's the best time in Alaska. Flowers and sunshine at sea level.  But still winter in the high country. When it comes to outdoor recreation at this time of year, you're only limited by your imagination.  Skippy raced in a triathlon last weekend and finished 25th. My friends and I did our own little triathlon yesterday, but we didn't keep score.

Crust skiing at Hatcher Pass

There's still plenty of snow.

We came across Jenna, Brandon, Skippy, Michaela and Hannah out training on the groomed trails.

Here's Brandon.

Quail and Hannah


When we got home, we went out for a bike ride along Turnagain Arm.

And followed it up with a hike in the front range above Anchorage.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

No Helicopter Necessary

The summer training conditions are good at Hatcher Pass, with Ed grooming the trails every Wednesday and Saturday. I know people who spend a lot of money for summer skiing on the glacier, and I see how itchy and impatient everyone is to get on snow in October and November on scratchy, thin snow, in the cold and dark. So I'm perpetually surprised by how few serious ski racers see fit to train on groomed trails that are accessible by car at this time of the year, in warm comfortable weather under sunny skies. There's a couple meters of snow on the ground, so there should be a couple more weeks of skiing before State Parks fires up the heavy equipment and plows the snow out to make way for the summer tourists.

Every time I go skiing, Berit Flora is there too. Every time!

Here's Gavin Kentch. Always one of the first to start skiing in the fall, and one of the last to put away the skis in the spring.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


Of course we all know that former Seawolves Marine and Erik are planning to get married on July 7 in the french alps (the ones in France).  

But perhaps not everyone knows that Pati is also back in town and she and her boyfriend Scott intend to get married soon, too!  Pati has managed to talk Alyeska Resort into putting her to work for this summer and beyond. Nobody really knows exactly when Pati and Scott are going to get married; they haven't decided on a date yet. But you can count on getting all the latest updates right here, on the most reliable of all the UAA Ski Team blogs.

Meanwhile, out on the mean streets of Hatcher Pass, there's a rumour floating around that there's yet another Seawolf planning her long-awaited return to Anchorage from Europe.  I don't want to spill the beans about it just yet, as it might be a little while before she's back in Anchorage. But you can count on this blog making a big announcement about it when the time is right!