Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Last week, I was hanging around Kodiak Island, doing my normal thing. I was fiddle-farting around the office, drinking gallons of coffee, playing on-line chess and trying to solve my Rubik's Cube when, without warning, Pati Sprecher stopped by the office with her mom, Karina. They told me they were going to fly in a small plane across Kodiak Island to the little village of Port Lions and invited me to come along. Apparently Karina, who is a school teacher in Switzerland, is researching how children live in other parts of the world so she can go back and relate her findings to her classroom in Vättis. She'd come all the way from Switzerland to Kodiak Island for her research.

Well, I love flying so of course I said yes to their invitation and less than an hour later we were in the air and headed toward the little village of Port Lions.

Early in the flight.  At this point, Karina was showing Pati and me what all the knobs and buttons do.
Before long, Karina was telling the pilot, Titus, how he could fly the plane better.
Fantasy Island? Sure looks that way.  Here's the local Port Lions swimming hole.
While swimming, you can catch a red salmon.
Karina getting ready to jump.
On our way home, Karina wrestled the controls away from Titus and started buzzing mountain goats and doing all kinds of crazy aerobatics. Pati and I, in the back seat, tightened our seat belts.
Titus finally regained control of the airplane, but not without a stern scolding from Karina.

       1. It didn't happen exactly like this. 
       2. Thank you so much, Cheryl, for showing us around your beautiful town!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Two Laps Around Alyeska

Mario sent me a picture recently. It was a picture of winter weather. But it was taken during the summer.  A photograph of Mario and Pati hanging out on the Albula Pass wearing bike shoes in the midst of a mid-summer snowstorm in Switzerland. Mario said he was going to tell me the whole story behind the picture but he never did, which leaves it up to me to make up a story for the photograph and here it is:  Mario was doing hill repeats up the west side of the Albula on his bike as part of a little Swiss mini training camp he'd undertaken.  Meantime, Pati was in the midst of an overdistance day-ride from her home town of Vättis, far to the north.  Mario was just topping out on his eighth and last time up the western side of the Albula Pass from La Punt when he looked up and saw Pati topping out on the pass from the eastern side.  They took this picture together and then went their separate ways and won't see each other again until late August in Alaska when school starts.

While Switzerland has apparently been experiencing winter weather this summer, the same can't be said for Alaska.  After the least wintry winter ever in Alaska, we had the warmest spring, and now we've had the warmest, sunniest summer ever. No change is in sight, as an El Nino bomb is gathering itself for an assault on Alaska next winter. What's to be done about this?  Andrew and I decided to go hiking in the sun.

The biome in which Girdwood is situated is considered "rainforest". But that may be changing with the climate.  Girdwood hasn't seen much rain lately.  Andrew and I went out for a recon hike to see what what was going on in the mountains above town. Ridges that would usually have huge overhanging cornices were bare rock.  Rocky meadows that have been under snow for years and years were dry and bare of snow, with no lichens yet grown on the rocks after the sudden disappearance of the snow cover. It was simultaneously frightening and blissful. It was so nice up there, I went back a couple weeks later with D.

This part of the trail is steep! It may be forest, but I wouldn't want to fall.

The ocean

Girdwood Valley

Our destination, Mt Alyeska, in the background.

Climbing the ridge

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

2:1 Coach/Athlete Ratio

It was Etienne's worst nightmare over the weekend.  He wanted to go for a nice peaceful hike in the Chugach front range on Saturday morning, but Andrew and I wanted to come along, too.  So instead of relaxation and quiet, Etienne ended up with drill sargeants coming at him in stereo.

Andrew started us off with a little bushwhacking, but eventually we got above treeline and were able to look down on Anchorage on a sunny windless morning.

Anchorage from Peak 3

Friday, July 3, 2015


I haven't seen much of Coach Andrew this summer.  That's partly because lately I've been flying all over the state at record pace as a passenger in various aircraft. But it's also partly because Andrew has sequestered himself like a monk this summer, immersed in his studies of the martial arts, perfecting revolutionary new methods of training our UAA Nordic Team next fall for unprecedented success. It can be easy to follow the tired old training formulas that everyone else is using. But it takes real guts and imagination to find a completely new way of doing things. This is the journey that Master Andrew has embarked upon this summer.

Though I don't have all the details, it sounds as though our team will be following the ancient methods of Master Lee come September. Here's a little video montage of the Master himself in the 60's, wearing his white ski suit (he'd been out rollerskiing all morning) and using the same training methods and exercises that our team can expect to see on the program this fall:

Be water, my friends...

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

'Tis the Season

June - it's the time of the year for weddings and babies. And I've got all your UAA skier wedding pics and baby pics right here at the UAA Ski Team Blog!

Sarah Studebaker and Zach Hall were married over the weekend in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho.  Here's Sarah with her dad.
Sarah and Zach.
Meanwhile, Jaime Bronga and Tim Samuelson were wed at Majestic Valley in the Talkeetna Mountains.
Hey, isn't that Laura Rombach on the left?! How does she always manage to sneak in and out of Alaska without me finding out about it?

Steffi, Karl, and young Matias Ludwig Schauer, hiking near their home in Mittenwald, Germany.

Congratulations to all!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Hyvä Tuomo!

Tuomo Latva-Kiskola raced for UAA ski team from 1988 until 1991, when he became an NCAA All-American at the NCAA Championships in Utah. I know this because I was in the race too. I was getting changed in the bathroom afterwards when Tuomo barged in and loudly announced, "Verrier, I may not be an American but today was my last college race and I raced my ass off and became an ALL-AMERICAN, HA HA HA!!!"  It was a moment I'll never forget, just like most other moments with Tuomo.

Yesterday, after living in Alaska for more than 20 years, Tuomo became an American citizen.  Congratulations, Tuomo!  We're glad to have you here.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Downward Spiral

Well, that was that.  The longest day of the year is over. For the next half-year it's only going to get darker and colder. Less day and more night.  Less sunshine and more moonshine.
Davis, Etienne and I went out for a little spin around the hillside this week in the scorching (record-breaking) heat.
The last of the sun from my roof at 11pm tonight. We'll see less of it starting now.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Marathon Men

UAA skiers have been mobbing the Euro marathon circuits this summer.  

Lasse left the law office and went outdoors for a few hours recently - a rare occurrence lately - just long enough to run the Copenhagen Marathon in less than 3 hours. While a sub 3-hour marathon is nothing to sneeze at, it should be noted that former UAF skier Erik Soederstrom ran the race too, and was nice enough to wait around for 20 minutes at the finish line until Lasse arrived so they could take this picture together. Of course, it wasn't really an even race between the two.  Notice that Lasse was wearing a number in the 10,000's, while Erik was wearing a bib that said "Erik". They only give you a bib with your name on it if they think you're going to win.  So Erik had probably already run the first mile before Lasse got across the starting line.
Meanwhile, Clement left UAA and is now racing in the elite class on the French mountain running circuit for the Hoka One One shoe company. He recently raced the MaxiRace marathon in 3:59.  Not as fast as Lasse raced the Copenhagen marathon, but good enough for 3rd place! (It's my understanding that Copenhagen is not as hilly as the French Alps.)  Congratulations, Clement!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Better Late Than Never

It was a drag when we didn't get hardly any snow this past winter. It's nice to see winter has finally arrived in the mountains above Anchorage.
From Lake Hood
From an airplane.
The back-country running conditions in Iliamna are limitless.

Monday, June 1, 2015


Etienne Richard isn't spending this summer in Quebec, as he's done his whole life. He's staying in Anchorage this summer, where he got a work internship here in town, related to his field of study. Alaska has always been known for its excellent fishing and its plentiful, large salmon and halibut. But that reputation may be about to come to an end because Etienne is catching and eating most of the fish in the rivers and sea, and those that aren't being caught and eaten by Etienne are swimming away from Alaska in panic.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Flying High

This week above Alaska.
Akutan Volcano
Prince William Sound
The Fairweather Range

Friday, May 15, 2015

Living The AK Life

Here is a movie. You might notice that Andrew's videos are getting more artsy with each new video submission. You may notice that Anchorage wasn't the only place that didn't hardly get any snow this winter - it looks a little thin in the Brooks Range, too.  One thing I have noticed is that Andrew really enjoys sharing the sport of skiing with others!

Click on the picture to see the show!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mountain Village

Andrew recently returned from teaching skiing in western Alaska. Here is his video report (click on the map below).

Mountain Village, AK locator map

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Coaches Training

When school is in session, the coaches would love to be out training and getting in shape.  But they can't. They need to run the stopwatch. The video camera. They need to wax the skis. And the van won't drive itself.  Now that school has ended for the season, the coaches can go out and get a little fresh air. Talk strategy. Get in shape.  Finally.

Zach, Sara and Andrew. Each one of them doing something interesting. Each doing their own thing.

Yesterday. Somewhere over Alaska.