Thursday, August 25, 2016

Playa Time

I'll be out in the desert for a little while, so don't expect to see much on this blog until after Labor Day.

In the meantime, check out this audio report from Mario's mountaineering trip last spring:

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Trond Will Be The New Head Coach At The NTG In Lillehammer

I first met Trond Flagstad in Seward on Independence Day. It must have been close to twenty years ago.  Trond and his girlfriend Lindsey had recently moved to Alaska from Vermont. Trond had come to Vermont from Norway to visit a friend of mine, Flash, against whom I'd grown up racing against in the '70's and who, like me, had lived in Norway for a while in the '80's to try to learn how to ski faster. (Back in those days, if you were an American who wanted to be a fast skier, you went and spent some time paying your dues in Scandinavia. When I was on the national team, I guess about half of us had learned to speak Norwegian, Swedish or Finnish as a result of our having spent significant time living there.) Anyway, Trond and Lindsey showed up on the lawn in front of the church in Seward on Independence Day, and after watching the Mt. Marathon race, Trond told me he thought it looked like fun and he said he'd like to try it someday. About ten years later, he entered the race and won.

Trond had been a fast skier in Norway, chasing the national circuit around, and came to the US with a degree in physical education. But during his first few years in Alaska, he was working as a carpenter, framing houses all year round. The house-building job was pretty energy-draining and he didn't have much time to get out skiing. He and Lindsey were living in a tiny one-room cabin without running water in the mountains behind Eagle River. When an assistant ski coaching job opened up at UAA in 2001, Trond applied for and got the job. Eventually he moved into the head Nordic coaching position and then he finally became the Head Ski Coach at UAA. One thing that happened when Trond stopped framing houses and started coaching at UAA was that suddenly he was spending a lot more time on skis. And before long, the word around the team was that no matter how fast the UAA athletes raced (and they got some good results, with a bunch of NCAA podium finishes over the years) there was a prevailing feeling that the fastest guy in the UAA Ski Team van was probably the coach. 

Head Nordic Coach Trond with Assistant Nordic Coach Eric Strabel
Soon after Trond became the UAA Nordic Coach, he asked me if I'd like to come and do occasional workouts with the team from time to time, particularly interval workouts and time trials. I guess he thought that maybe I could help make things a little more aggressive and competitive during those types of workouts. Of course I was very happy to have a group to do some workouts with, so I showed up once or twice a month for a few intervals or a time trial or whatnot. As the years went by, Trond invited me to gradually become more and more involved, and eventually I found myself traveling to the NCAA Championships, to training camps, and to various other races to help Trond and Mandy with waxing and whatever needed doing. Gradually, I'd sort of morphed from the team's training partner to "volunteer assistant to the assistant coach". 

I guess it was about five years ago that Trond decided to leave the college coaching scene behind and put his teaching degree to work by becoming a high school teacher. He's been working for the Anchorage School District as a physical education teacher ever since. 
Out in the mountains - Trond's favorite place
But Trond's not one to stay in one place for too long. This summer, Trond accepted a job as the Norwegian Elite Sports School (Norges Topidrettsgymnas) head ski coach in Lillehammer. This is the place where many of Norway's promising young skiers try to go from being good to being great. It's quite a vote of confidence to be selected for the head coaching job at the NTG. We know how serious Norwegians are about their skiing, and they're putting their future national team skiers in Trond's care. The hallmark of Trond's coaching style at UAA was his infectious enthusiasm for the simple pleasures of just "going skiing" and his excitement about ski racing - anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances. On race mornings at UAA, Trond could never sit still. He was always eager to get out there and start getting after it! I'm sure he'll bring the same excitement to the NTG because it wasn't like Trond needed to try to "fire himself up" for our team practices or races - his excitement about skiing and the outdoors is just a part of him. It's an ingrained aspect of his personality that he couldn't lose if he tried. Those kids at the NTG will soon find out how fortunate they are to have such an enthusiastic supporter with them in the start pen!

Trond grew up just 20 minutes south of Lillehammer, so it'll be a homecoming of sorts. It's good timing for Trond and Lindsey, too, as their children are getting to the age where their parents would like them to be immersed in Norwegian culture for at least a few years, and learn to speak the language fluently (Lindsey is already a fluent Norwegian speaker). The last time I hung out with Trond and Lindsey was a few weeks ago at the Modest Mouse show at the Moose's Tooth, and they both seemed pretty excited about this coming year. Congratulations on the new job, Trond! The UAA Ski Team sends best wishes with the Flagstad family in this new opportunity!

Monday, July 25, 2016

It's A Small World

As soon as I arrived at college in Wyoming in 1987, I started hearing lots of stories about the all the great things that had happened there in the years just before I arrived. Isn't it always like that, though? You should have seen the huge fish we caught yesterday! That party you missed was totally insane! We won all the ski races last year!  You know, that kind of stuff.

It may have been because I found a pair of left-behind ski poles in the ski room that had the name "Grethe Lise" written on them that were a better model than mine so I made them my own, but it seemed all the stories I was hearing were centered around Grethe Lise Hågensen. And they were great stories!  But Grethe Lise had gone back to Norway so I assumed I'd never meet the person whose ski poles I was using.

Many years later, when I started helping out with the UAA Ski Team, Grethe Lise had become the coach at Montana State so I started seeing her frequently. In 2005, I spent some time around Christmas in Bozeman and met Grethe Lise's daughter, Bjørk, though she would never remember it because she was only seven or eight years old then.

Last week, Andrew told me that Bjørk has agreed to become a Seawolf this fall! After finishing high school in Bozeman, she spent last winter training and racing in Tromsø, Norway, and finished her season with a couple of gold medals at the Barents Winter Games in Murmansk, Russia.

I'm looking forward to getting to know Bjørk Hågensen, and we welcome her to Alaska as the final installment in this year's UAA Ski Team women's roster!

Bjork is the one in the middle.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Sylvie Went To Eagle Glacier And All I Got Was This Stupid T-Shirt

Actually, nobody even got a t-shirt out of it.  Andrew was relegated to watching his daughter Sylvie fly off in a red helicopter with Calisa to spend the morning skiing with the US national team while he had to settle for a hike up Alyeska's north face with his daughter Svea. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Hey, Isn't That a Pripps Blå?

Hanna has taken her road show back to Sweden. 
Reportedly, she won a triathlon last week. 
You win triathlons by paying attention to the details. 
In the photo below, for example, observe Hanna's attention to detail as she is careful not to knock over her can of Pripps Blå. 
We can learn a lot from our graduates.

Summertime in Sweden...

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Meanwhile In Estonia...

The UAA Ski Team Blog covers local, national and international events. We travel the globe to bring you all the UAA Ski Team news that you just can't get anywhere else.  And that's why the UAA Ski Team Blog was hiding out behind some shrubbery last weekend in Estonia*. The UAA Ski Team Blog had traveled all the way to Estonia because we'd heard thru certain channels that Tommy, our favorite Estonian Seawolf, would be competing in a ski race there. The rumor turned out to be true.


The UAA Ski Team Blog is not particularly concerned about results, so we didn't inquire.  Mostly, we just care about whether the Seawolves look fast and look good.  Tommy looked plenty fast here, and he always looks good, so that's good enough for us.

*actually, credit for the video is due to whomever took this video - perhaps one of Tom's family members?  We don't know.  But thank you.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Summer Break

Skippy's had nine straight winters in a row. After spending the northern hemisphere's winter on skis, she would go back Down Under each year to spend the other half of the calendar on skis, too. But this summer, she's breaking with tradition. She's sticking around Alaska to reacquaint herself with shorts, sunblock and rollerskis. 

Skippy likes to do an overdistance workout each Saturday.  I asked her if I could tag along today. She said that would be OK. She took me for a run/hike our local woods.

Skippy's working as a lifeguard this summer. The water in that pool is warm.  The water in this lake is not as warm as the water in the UAA swimming pool. Guess whose feet those are.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Last Sunday Seems Like a Very Long Time Ago

Thousands of miles by airplane, all within Alaska

Monday: Shishaldin Volcano is a perfect cone, and it's always steaming. This could be a great future ski trip from False Pass!

Approaching Unalaska by air

I had time for a short hiking trip in Unalaska after work

There's no nicer place to be than Unalaska on a sunny summer day

And no better place for hiking

Wednesday:  Back in Anchorage for hiking with Marine and Etienne above town

Former University of Alaska skiers Etienne, Theresia and Marine

Thursday: Back out west. Here's Veniaminof.  A huge crater.

The vent on Mt Veniaminof. Another volcano that's always steaming.

The cemetery in Sand Point. 11pm

Sand Point on Thursday night

Onto the Alaska State Ferry for the overnight trip to King Cove. Here's Mt. Pavlov at 3:30am.  Why was I awake?  What can I say - I like boats.

King Cove arrival at 7am

Climbed into Guy's airplane for s short trip across to Cold Bay to catch a flight back home.

Saturday: Out west one more time - to Naknek where the commercial fishing season is in high gear.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Second-Toughest Man in Norway

If, when you think of cross-country skiing, you think of nothing but spandex, stopwatches, interval training, flourination and carbon fiber, I understand. The envelope around a ski-racing lifestyle can get pretty narrow for those who dream of being the fastest spook in their realm. But of course skis are used for far more than just glide-testing. They're for having fun. For exploring around the countryside. For traveling efficiently from place to place when there's snow on the ground. And they're good for reindeer herding.

The Lapp people of northern Scandinavia have been herding reindeer for a very long time.  And just as the native people of Alaska have incorporated modern tools to fish, hunt, and work more efficiently, so have the people of Lappland. Reindeer are central to Sami culture and lifestyle, and they must be herded from place to place as the seasons change. During the spring migration, this work is typically done with snowmachines.  But the treeless arctic landscape makes for great spring crust skiing, and we all know how fast and far we can go on a pair of skate skis on a good crust.

Aslak Ole Eira

Aslak Ole Eira is from Karasjok in Finnmark.  He's the UAA Ski Team's newest recruit.  He's a fast ski racer. He's also a proficient skate-ski reindeer herder. I'll let you read this article for yourself, but basically Aslak says that he prefers to herd reindeer on skis instead of on a snowmachine whenever conditions allow. Not for the training, but for the experience. It gives him time to think and relax.

NY ROLLE Aslak Ole Eira som er en av landsdelens mest spennende langrennsjuniorer blir snart TV-kjendis.
(Foto: Svein Halvor Moe)

This won't be Aslak's first time to Alaska. He has been here before.  He competed in Fairbanks a couple years ago when the Arctic Winter Games came to town. He won three golds and a silver - not too shabby!

Aslak Ole Eira

We are looking forward to skiing with Aslak this winter, and to his contributions on the results page and on the podium. But I am also looking forward to the chance to learn more about the Lapp culture. One of the benefits of being on a team such as ours, with members from such a broad geographic area, is having the opportunity to learn more about places we've never been before and cultures we've never experienced before.

Welcome to our team, Aslak Ole Eira!

(By the way, Aslak is also a Norwegian reality TV star, and is known as "Norway's second-toughest man".)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Heeding the Call of Duty

I got the call last night around 9pm.  It was my friend Deb.  She needed my help.  "Adam, there's a training camp going on again this week at Eagle Glacier and we need to make sure the snow conditions are good and the kids are training hard and everyone's OK, and we need to check the loop to make sure the skiing is still good up there." At first I didn't understand why we needed to go to all the trouble of getting our ski stuff together and firing up the helicopter and making the trip up to the glacier.  It seemed to me we could just call the coaches and get a report from them and save ourselves the hassle of going skiing. But Deb insisted, "No, we need to see for ourselves to know for sure."  I wondered why she needed me to come along, too, in the helicopter. But she said I was needed as a counterbalance. If I didn't sit on the left side of the chopper, it might be unbalanced and maybe it wouldn't fly right or something.

So I gradually realized that Deb was right.  What if the coaches didn't tell us whether everything was OK?  Or what if they didn't tell us the truth?  And what if the helicopter was off-balance because I wasn't sitting in the left-hand seat?  I couldn't have that on my conscience. Even though I had a lot of important things to do today like reading catalogs, eating snacks, and watering my dandelions I realized that I had a responsibility and an obligation to load my skis on the motorcycle and ride the 45 minutes to Girdwood to check on glacier skiing conditions.  We simply needed to know how conditions were on the glacier. We needed to bear witness.

Skiing is always better immediately after motorcycling.   Always.

The Thomas Training Center looked fine. No problems there.

The furniture in the training center has not changed a bit in the past 23 years, as far as I can tell.

All was good with coaches Erika and Sam.

Erika and Sam, giving workout instructions.

Here's Deb.

Here's me.

This week, it was the junior girls' turn at the glacier.

There's always going to be those two who don't get off the ground.

Erika, Deb, Mike and Sam

Our ride has arrived.
As it turned out, everything was OK at Eagle Glacier.  It's probably a good thing we checked.