Thursday, August 17, 2017

Name That Seawolf

I start each day before dawn with a perusal of Alaska's tourist magazines, because like everyone in this age of narcissism and oversharing on social media, I have a "fear of missing out" and I want to see all the fun stuff other Alaskans are doing that I'm not.  This morning I came across a familiar face in Alaska Magazine. Can you pick out the former Seawolf skier in the photos below?

I know you want to be kept in suspense, but I'm going to ruin it for you.  That's Reini Neuhauser holding that big Arctic Grayling (the fish). He owns a guiding company in Fairbanks and though I'm not trying to advertise for Reini or anything, the word on the street is that there's no better fishing guide anywhere. Reini has a personality as big as Alaska, and although I'd rather be hanging out with Reini in person, it's nice to at least get to see his smiling face in a magazine from time to time.


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Tales From The Heartland

It's not always easy to get out the door for the ski training, I know. Sometimes it's cold and rainy (like our 2017 Anchorage "summer") and it seems easier to stay on the couch. Especially with this busted leg that's been slowing me down and limiting my list of exercise options to those with wheels, I sometimes need a little extra push to get out the door. But lucky for me, I stumbled upon this inspirational video that was recently filmed deep in corn country. Every inspirational film has to have a railroad, and this one's no exception. Whenever I feel my motivation waning, all I have to do is watch this little movie featuring Hannah and Quail, and I'm out the door lickety-split.

ps. Was that UAA alumnus Brian Gregg making a cameo appearance?

Thursday, June 1, 2017


Hailey is traveling in Estonia this week. She and Toomas are doing a little training camp there.  And I've got the photos to prove it.

Hailey and Toomas have been rollerskiing on Otepää's special rollerski track with a couple of Tom's friends, Kein Einaste and Siim Sellis.

Tom had surgery on his shins about a month ago. By all accounts, he is recovering well. This was his first rollerski session - double-poling only.


From under Otepää's ski jump.

Lots of rollerskiing. Hailey says this rollerski track is really fantastic!

Apparently, they haven't been spending ALL their time rollerskiing.

Warming up for some hill-bounding with poles

The Estonian pastoral landscape.
If I'm not mistaken, I think Hailey and Tom are headed to Austria before long for a little on-snow ski training. It sounds like they're having a wonderful time and getting in good shape!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

From the Ski Race to the Rat Race

Someone once told me that you can't be an elite ski racer forever. Perhaps they were right. Or maybe not.

Mackenzie and Pati

But one thing's for sure, you can't be a college ski racer forever, because the NCAA only gives you four years. So if you haven't won an NCAA Championship by the time you're a senior, you're done trying. And there's no petitioning for an extra year. 

Mackenzie Kanady left town yesterday for the high plains of northeastern Colorado, where she plans to help Halliburton squeeze the lifeblood of Earth's internal combustion engines out of the grassy steppe east of Greely. She'll be spending long days in the field, putting her recently-acquired mechanical engineering degree to use, keeping the oil-drilling infrastructure operating and keeping that dinosaur juice flowing out of the ground and into our Fords and Chevys.

She's been told her assignment is going to involve brutally long hours on the job in all kinds of weather, in a high-consequence environment in a high-stakes industry. So, needless to say, she's going in with some trepidation.

This past winter, Etienne was a substitute schoolteacher for the Anchorage School District, and an assistant coach for the South High School ski team.
And Etienne Richard left town, too.  He boarded a plane on Wednesday of last week, arriving in Canmore, Alberta in the middle of the afternoon. He went straight from the airport to the office at his new job and spent the next two days cramming frantically to get up to speed in order to be ready to make a sales pitch on behalf of his new employer at a big conference over the weekend in Kamloops, British Columbia. By all accounts, Etienne inspired lots of crowd participation during his presentation, and everyone left the building feeling great! He has agreed to provide his sales and marketing services to Zone 4 Timing. So if you're looking to organize a race anywhere in North America and you want to know how fast the racers went, you ought to give Etienne a call, because he'd love to tell you what his new employer can do to brighten your day!  (You may have noticed, if you clicked the link above, that Etienne's photo isn't on the staff directory page yet. But he told me he really does work there. And he's always been pretty straight with me so I have no reason to doubt him.) 

Etienne and Davis Dunlap on the road - finding a moment of relaxation and repose

Both Etienne and Mackenzie are changing pace, leaving familiar academia and elite athletics behind in exchange for the world of corporate balance sheets, production goals, and regular paychecks. It's an exciting transition into new territory. But coming from the rigorous lifestyle of a college student-athlete, I'm sure they'll both find their new work environment to be a fun (rather than a daunting) challenge.

Etienne and Mackenzie with their teammates in 2014

Monday, May 15, 2017

Wedding Bells

The Seawolf Ski Team matchmaking service is once again in full effect! It was with great exuberance and joy that the staff here at the UAA Ski Team Blog got word recently that Marine Dusser and Erik Bjornsen have recently decided to get married! Erik, as you know, skied for the Seawolves in 2010-2011. And Marine skied for the Seawolves from 2012-2014. Though they were not on the UAA Ski Team concurrently, Erik was attending school right across the street at Alaska Pacific University when Marine arrived at UAA.

That's Erik on the left, and Marine on the right. With their chaperones, Lasse and Etienne.
Since graduating from UAA, Marine has been living and working in France, but her ski-industry job has sent her travelling all around the Alps during the winter racing and event season.  And Erik has been been spending his winters racing around Europe on the World Cup circuit.  During the past couple of summers, Marine could often be spotted in Alaska during one of her many visits to see Erik, while Erik has spent a lot of time training in Marine's home town of Villard de Lans, a village in the mountains overlooking Grenoble.

Again, chaperones Lasse and Etienne keeping things from overheating...

Now we're all wondering when the wedding will be? Marine and Erik are saying they plan to get married next summer, most likely in France. 

Marine in Montana

Still in Montana...

Erik on his way to a second place at NCAA's in Vermont. 

Marine on the Anchorage Hillside.

Erik in Russia.

More recently. Again with the chaperones - Sadie and Rosie this time.
Congratulations to Marine and Erik on their marriage engagement! The entire staff here at the UAA Ski Team Blog world headquarters wishes you the very best together!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

On To Browner Pastures

SSH has decided to take her coaching game to another level - to the junior level.  After three years bestowing her knowledge on us here at UAA, Sara will be leaving on a road trip this week, towing a trailer down the Alcan to Midway, Utah where she'll be showing young aspiring skiers the tricks of the trade. Sara's really excited to take what she's learned working with Andrew and UAA's college athletes, and work with kids who are closer to the wellspring, so to speak.  At the NCAA level, there's pressure to perform at a high level, immediately, and there's somewhat less time for experimentation and skill development. But now she will be working with younger skiers, and she'll have the time and the freedom to help them develop the basic skills that they'll need as they grow older and try to compete at higher levels. My advice: I hope she will direct her young team to follow her around like a family of ducklings and learn to skate exactly like Sara during practice. Because if those kids can learn to imitate Sara's skating technique, there will be a bunch of crazy-good skate skiers coming out of Utah soon!

We're really going to miss Sara around here. There were a couple of tears shed down at the park the other night when we got together to say goodbye and wish her well.  But of course we'll be seeing her from time to time on the road at ski races. So it's not goodbye forever.

Here's the whole gang on a Friday night, hanging out at the Air Force base.

On my drive home past the Big Boy on Muldoon, I caught this sign out of the corner of my eye, and had to swing a U-turn and go back to get a photo of it for this blog.

The team is sending Sara off to the Lower 48 with a personalized wax apron.

I included this picture because it looks like a promo poster for a traveling rock band. I'll let you guess who plays what.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Bell-Shaped Curve of Emotion

The NCAA Championships were suddenly over, and they ended on a low note this year.

These photos kind of capture the emotion of the day. Scraping around in the bushes.

But on our way back home, we had time to stop for a couple hours' worth of sightseeing in Boston. 

As for me, after our Boston stop, I made another stop. This time in Colorado for a week's worth of alpine skiing in the Rocky Mountain sunshine. First stop was Steamboat Springs.

Everything was going great, and memories of a rough week at NCAA's were fading and being replaced by sunshine and great snow.

I was minding my own business, knifing giant slalom turns through sun-softened spring snow, when I hit a rock submerged under a couple inches of slushy snow. I was getting insane angles like Ligety, and the ski was fully loaded, mid-turn. There was a crunch the moment my outside ski arced directly into a hidden rock, as my femur punched down through the meniscus and broke off the top of my tibia.  I knew the prognosis was going to be bad even before I fell. Strangely enough, it didn't hurt at all. The knee simply didn't work any more.

This guy, Pete, offered to give me a ride down in his sled. I'd never been in one before so I said "sure". 

As fun as it was to get a ride in the sled, I was pretty bummed because I knew the next six days of ski vacation were out the window, as well as the entire Alaska spring skiing season.

You don't have to look too closely to see that the tibial plateau is broken, and the femur had to bust through the meniscus to get to the tibia. 

I had another first on this trip: my first overnight stay in a hospital. 

About three hours after the accident, the local bigwig orthopedic surgeon (an official US Ski Team doctor) dropped by and told me that I needed surgery and if he was going to do it we needed to do it immediately because he was leaving town early the next morning to float the Grand Canyon. The timing couldn't have worked out any better for me. No waiting time. (And apparently they've invented some kind of synthetic bone graft material, so they didn't even have to harvest a piece of bone out of my hip for the graft.)

Here's his handiwork:

And then he stapled me back up. I guess stitches are no longer in vogue.
To me, this knee does not look normal. I suppose it will work itself out.
So in the end, I hope some good can come of this. I've been spending more and more time working with the alpine team in recent years, and I am really enjoying being involved with that side of the sport. But sometimes I wonder if my lack of knee surgeries hurts my credibility with the alpiners. Like, if I've never even had one torn ACL or one broken leg, I haven't gone through initiation yet and I'm not really legit in their eyes. If that's the case, I'm hoping this experience will change all that.  Now I've got my first-ever ski injury in the books, even if it took me 48 years' worth of skiing to achieve this milestone.

As interesting as this adventure has been, I guess I won't be too disappointed if it takes another 48 years before my next broken leg.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Just a Bunch of Pictures

A lot has happened since my last letter. I'll attempt to let this plethora of photos explain it all.

Typical team meeting, gathered 'round the pick 'em up truck

We're deep into the klister here in New Hampshire.

The backdrop for our racing trails this week.

Another team meeting

Zack under full power in training

Andrew and Skippy


This is where we prepare the skis

There's always an NCAA championship banquet. This is the 2017 edition. Mount Washington Hotel. Site of the 1944 Bretton Woods Monetary Conference. 

Sparky and Anna assigned me to the start for the Giant Slalom. Here's the race hill.  I know you think I inadvertently tilted the camera sideways when I took this picture. But I didn't. It's the world that's tilted sideways. The race hill and I are not.

It was blustery in the start.  Here's Anna and Sparky. Sparky's the one wearing the slime line gloves.

Alix, Kat, Hughey, Dom

Dominic Unterberger

Kat. This is the last run of her final giant slalom. The last one.

Skippy, Andrew, Sara.   Post race.



Zacke. Near the finish.  And Andrew

Zacke, Butter, Hailey

Skippy and Nitro
Today was one of those days...

Every afternoon there's a rematch. It's a brutal thing to witness.

Toomas.  Recuperation and contemplation.