Friday, August 15, 2014

No Joke

Yes, that's all snow.  (And that's before it really started snowing.)
Any perceptive reader knows that the content of this blog mostly consists of wild exaggeration and the occasional outright lie.  But what I'm about to write here is the straight truth:  UAA is planning to host RMISA nordic college races on the new Girdwood nordic trail system this coming February!  This is very exciting stuff because these will be the first elite-level races ever on the new trails, and our team loves training there because they have good solid uphills and fast fun downhills. And they're in a rainforest so they get pummeled all the damn time by big fat wet rainy snowstorms.

Girdwood is known for its powder skiing.

When I called the corporate headquarters of the Girdwood Nordic Ski Club to confirm whether our dreams of Girdwood nordic racing were really going to come true this winter, I heard no denials.  So it's on!  

This moose needs fatter skis for more flotation.

Here's a link to an article about our racing schedule for this coming winter: Ski Racing RMISA Article link

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 9.56.01 AM

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Music Television

Remember when MTV used to show music videos and not much else?  Of course you don't, because that was back in the '80's and if you're reading this you probably weren't born yet.  But I remember it well.  (link and link)

While MTV may have mutated into nonstop reality shows, the UAA Ski Team has stayed true to its values after all these years, and still produces its own cutting-edge music videos.  Why, just this summer Andrew Kastning produced an epic video featuring the team in all its glory, playing in the snow, flying on jets, getting muddy, waking up early...

You can get all the satellite, cable, and pay-per-view TV subscriptions you want, but you're not going to find this video anywhere else.  We ought to be charging money to watch it.  But we're not, because Andrew's not in the music video business for the money.  He's in it because he's got soul. Check it out here!

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Last spring, Nicole DeYong decided not to return as UAA's Assistant Nordic Coach.  As an NCAA All-American  for the UAA Ski Team in the early 2000's, followed by several years' worth of elite-level and World Cup racing and junior-level coaching, Nicole brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to UAA when she arrived last September. But probably her greatest strength was her ability to relate to the athletes with warmth and compassion, and convey her knowledge in a way that our athletes could understand and relate to. This spring, when Nicole decided to pursue other interests outside of cross-country skiing instead of returning as UAA's assistant coach, several UAAers expressed doubt that the team could find another assistant coach who could bring the qualities to the team that Nicole brought.  One of those UAA doubters was the head coach.  I remember Andrew telling me, "I'm really going to have my work cut out for me this summer trying to replace Nicole!"

About a month ago I was in my local grocery store, shopping for avocados or chicken wings or mouthwash when I came around the end of the potato chip aisle and face to face with Zach Hall and Sara Studebaker. I'd raced against Zach a handful of times in the old days before he graduated from high school and went off to college and the national biathlon team, but I'd never met Sara before. Of course her reputation preceded her as she was a member of an NCAA national champion college team and has been on a bunch of World Championship and Olympic teams in biathlon.  And though it wasn't official news, Andrew had mentioned to me that there was a possibility that we might be able to convince Sara to coach for us - straight off the 2014 Olympic Team. Sara and I had a chance to chat for a bit at the grocery store about what it's like to go out running for "exercise" instead of "training", now that she's not chasing the elite circuit around anymore.

I was really excited to hear the official news a couple days ago that Sara has agreed to be UAA's assistant coach.  I know the rest of the coaching staff is very excited about our new team member, and I'm definitely looking forward to finding out all the latest Olympic-level technique tips direct from Sara!

1950 Studebaker Brochure-07
The "other" Studebaker.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Song Remains the Same

Danielle says the best thing you can do after your vacation is to take a vacation.  That way, you won't get sad when your first vacation is coming to an end, because you know you have another vacation as soon as you get home - you don't even have to unpack your bags!

So as soon as we got home from Europe, I jetted off to Kodiak Island for a day of work, and as soon as I got back to Anchorage we jumped back on the jumbo jet and jetted down here to Hawaii, where we are hunkered down now, waiting for tonight's hurricane to hit the islands.  (After tonight's hurricane, there's going to be a second hurricane a day later. I'm not kidding.  I don't bother with just one hurricane.  Surviving a hurricane ain't no thing.  I take my hurricanes in pairs.  Here's video - wish us luck tonight: Looks like we're going to make history!)

So, since I've got a few hours until tonight's hurricane hits, I'll tell you a little story about an experience I had in the Black Forest of southwest Germany last week:   As we were driving our rental car through the area on our last day in Europe, I started getting the strange feeling that something wasn't quite right.  It was a familiar feeling - sort of a deja-vu - but I couldn't quite place what it was.  We were driving toward Furtwangen that day.  Dieter Ebner had graciously offered to let us keep our bike box at his house while we drove and biked around the Alps.  As we got closer and closer to Furtwangen, this strange yet familiar feeling got stronger and stronger.  What could it possibly be?!  As we pulled into downtown Furtwangen just a couple hundred meters from Dieter's house, the feeling got so strong I could actually smell it!  And suddenly I realized I knew that familiar stench - the smell of broken carbonfiber!  And all at once the pieces of this mystery fit together and it all made sense.  Hadn't Lukas been here just days earlier with Mackenzie, before flying back to Alaska?  Hadn't he been training for next winter's racing season as a professional ski racer while he was in Furtwangen?  Everybody knows Lukas and carbonfiber don't mix, and it only made sense, considering the circumstances, that Lukas would have come into contact with some ski poles or some rollerskis right here in Furtwangen, just days earlier!

Dieter showed me where the rollerskis are kept in the Ebner garage.  And there they were - a broken pair of One-Way rollerskis - the break so fresh you could almost hear that familiar splintering crackle still echoing through the garage.  Dieter confirmed that Lukas had, as I suspected, tried to go out for a tour around the area on a new pair of carbonfiber rollerskis.  Apparently, Lukas isn't aware that some rollerskis are made of aluminum.  Or even wood.  Hey Erik Bjornsen - are you going to hook your old UAA teammate up with some Woodskis or what?  (Lukas - check the link - these rollerskis have not an ounce of carbonfiber in them!)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

I don't always fly from Europe to Alaska on the Condor charter.  But when I do, I prefer to sit by a window.

North Coast of Greenland

Alaska Range



Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer Vacation

Every day, our small army of UAA Ski Team Blog call center employees fields a steady stream of callers inquiring about the latest issues regarding the blog and the ski team.  But lately, the call volume has swelled to a crescendo of angry callers, wondering why they are not getting regular blog updates, with some claiming to be suffering the ill effects of "UAA Ski Team Blog withdrawal syndrome".

Well, I have bad news for you all:  The Blog staff is currently doing research for the summer on a variety of blog-related issues, as well as taking care of summer-related issues.  (My motorcycle isn't going to ride itself; these salmon aren't going to catch themselves; the lawn isn't going to mow itself, if you know what I mean.)

Having already visited Smithers, BC earlier this summer to conduct research (see earlier post), the Blog has received permission from the board of directors to do additional field work in Lukas' hometown in the Black Forest, Marine's hometown in the French Alps, and Steffi and Karl's hometown in Bavaria. I leave tomorrow.

Here's a short photo update, which will have to suffice until the staff can get back in the swing of things when our ski team reassembles at the end of August and we resume team training again.

Word on the street is Pati's been climbing every damn mountain in Switzerland this summer.

Rain or shine.  Doesn't matter.  Notice the ski poles.

At first, they let me write a blog.  But now I've been allowed into the inner sanctum - television!  I hope soon to be King Of All Media.  You can watch the whole thing at This Link to Mt. Marathon Race Coverage   Former Seawolf Ski Teamer Eric Strabel won the race!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Earlier today, the UAA Ski Team Blog's staff librarian came to me with a confession to make.  The Blog had missed a piece of UAA Ski Team news from February 2013.  This sort of thing isn't supposed to happen here at Blog HQ!  Here at the UAA Ski Team Blog corporate campus, we always say "If it's worth reading, it's on the UAA Ski Team Blog, and if it's not on the Blog, it's not worth reading."  We all recite it together every morning, religiously, at our daily meetings and yoga retreats.  That's why I was so shocked to hear that we'd missed such a personal and intriguing article about two of our former skiers, Steffi and Karl!

Our staff librarian (and several interns) received a serious upbraiding and a very long timeout for their oversight, but I'm glad they had the integrity to come to me and confess their error when they discovered it.  So, better late than never, here's the link to last year's news:  If not for John Schauer, we'd not have seen this - click here for the link!

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Who are these people?!

Here at the UAA Ski Team, this is one of the more frequently asked questions at our daily UAA Ski Coach Summit Meetings.  It's right up there with "Do you think Extra Blue will work?" and "What are the kids making us for dinner?"

Who are these people?  Why are they here?  How fast can they ski?  Where do they come from?

It is this last question - where do they come from - that has piqued my curiosity lately.  I am nothing if not a seeker of truth, a finder of facts.  When I want answers, I want them now.

As you may already know, some of our skiers at UAA did not grow up in Alaska.  Some of them are not even from the USA!  Some of the members of the UAA Ski Team have come from foreign countries - like Canadia!  Take, for example, Cara McCulloch.  Cara is no longer on our ski team or a student at our university.  But in 2012 and 2013 she was.  Cara grew up in the town of Smithers, British Columbia, not far from Alaska, but Canadia is a foreign country - as foreign as any other foreign country out there.  here's a link (who doesn't love links?)

How can we effectively coach our UAA skiers to greatness if we don't know their background?  If we don't know their history?  If we can't (as former president George W. Bush was known to do) "see into their soul"?

As part of my never-ending quest for knowledge, I needed to dig deeper. I needed to delve into the unexplored. To explain the inexplicable.  And I figured Smithers was as good as starting point as any.
File:Waylon Smithers, Jr..png
The other Smithers.

I arrived in Smithers by motorcycle, because I've found I meet a lot more people when I'm on two wheels than when I'm on three wheels, four wheels, eighteen wheels, or no wheels.  Besides, my arrival in Smithers by motorcycle jived with my other mission - to kill as many insects as possible in a fourteen-day period.

So you think you're pretty good on a mountain bike?  Go for a ride with Larry McCulloch in Smithers BC... and think again.
In Smithers, I met Larry, Cara McCulloch's dad.  I'd planned to just find a soft grassy place in Smithers to get off the motorcycle and camp for the night and move on down the road the next morning, but when I spoke with Larry on the telephone from Montana a couple days before my arrival in town, his tone on the phone indicated very clearly that I'd have to be some kind of moron not to stay in Smithers for at least a day and partake of some of the sporting opportunities afforded there.  So I called an audible right then and there in my Motel 6 room in Kalispell and got up early the next morning to blast to Smithers as fast as possible - two long days in the saddle - to find out what all the fuss was about.

For one day in Canadia, I traded out the lazy man's bike for the one with the pedals.
Larry had taken the day off so that he could show me around town.  We started on mountain bikes.  Lately, I've been kind of braggy about our new Single Track Advocates mountain bike trails here in Anchorage at Kincaid Park and Hillside.  But Smithers takes their mountain biking to a whole 'nother level. Actually, about three 'nother levels.  I saw some ramps and jumps in the forest above town that I would never consider taking on a bicycle.  A paraglider perhaps, but not a bike. I'm pretty sure I've seen mountain bike trails like those on TV, but not in person.  I was impressed!

One of the smaller jumps on Smithers' mountain bike trail system.  Dress me up me in a suit of armor and you still wouldn't catch me launching off this one.
Larry worked me over pretty good on that bike.  Somehow, I seem to have been living with the impression in recent years that I'm not in bad shape for a guy at my station in life.  I try to get some exercise now and then and not drink too many beers at one sitting.  But Larry has inexorably put this fantasy to rest.  I found out the cold hard truth on that yellow bicycle while trying to stay within a mile (sorry - 1.6 kilometers) of Larry climbing Hudson Bay Mountain.  In Smithers, I'm not fit to ride a bike down to the corner store for a pack of gum.

By mid-afternoon we were off the bikes so it was time for a quick sandwich before heading out to the other side of town for a little paragliding. I've never actually been paragliding, though it seemed easy enough.  You just hang onto some ropes attached to a giant piece of fabric and jump off a cliff, right?  And you don't even go very fast.  Seemed pretty innocuous.  That was, until Larry told me the story of the paragliding enthusiasts who got sucked into a thunder cloud in Australia.  Most of them died, but one German woman got sucked up to 30,000 feet (sorry - 10,000 meters) and lost consciousness, but woke up again before drifting back to earth; her GPS and altimeter had quite the story to tell.  I heard this story while eating a sandwich on the deck while Larry looked up a the cumulonimbus clouds forming above us. Finally, Larry said "We'd better get out there before these clouds form up any more."  Suddenly, paragliding didn't seem quite so benign.  Suddenly, I remembered how I'd ridden through a hailstorm the previous afternoon on the motorcycle just south of Smithers, and our weather pattern was looking eerily similar to the day before...

As it turns out, there was no tragedy in the afternoon.  Larry caught a couple rides with his brand new rig, and after a few words of instruction from Larry, I flew his old rig!  Okay, I didn't go higher than about six feet (sorry - two meters) but I can say that I flew three times (in my one trip down the hill) because every time I came back to earth I wanted to get back in the air so bad that I just ran like hell until I lifted off again. And I did manage to keep it out of the barbed wire fence on the edge of our slope. It might be a stretch to call what I did "flying", but I guess you could say the same thing about Orville and Wilbur Wright.  So lay off!

Don't believe I've become an expert paraglider?  Check the video below and find out just how wrong you are!

So what's my point in telling you all this?  Well, there really isn't a point to any of it.  But I did find out that while I love living here in Anchorage where there are always lots of great adventures to choose from, Alaska isn't the only place where you can have fun.  Smithers is a pretty fantastic place.  I also had lots of great conversations with Larry about environmental stewardship, biological diversity, ecological systems, and sports.  Thanks Larry, Jody, and Grace for taking me in and showing me a good time!


Now on a completely different topic, do you think this dog looks kind of spooky?  I met him somewhere in Montana - he has the same eyes as one of my coworkers at a job I used to have.  Maybe you'd need to see him in person, but I'm telling you it was a little tough to focus on my sandwich with this guy staring at me  at me with those crazy eyes!

Saturday, May 24, 2014


The reason there haven't been any posts in the past week or so is because I'm busy riding a motorcycle across North America.

And unless I'm grossly mistaken, Canada isn't on the interweb so there likely won't be any UAA Ski Team blog posts for another week or ten days when I return to civilization in Alaska.

In the meantime, here are a couple of today's sights.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tropical Training Camp

A bunch of UAA skiers have recently been in Maui, Hawaii, doing a little tropical training to kick off the summer training season.  There was some biking, hiking and swimming, but I'm pretty confident there wasn't any hillbounding with ski poles or rollerski time trials up Haleakala.
Pati, Tim, Davis, Synnøve, Mackenzie, Lucky

Mackenzie & Synnøve

Synnøve, Mackenzie, and the race marshal

Sunrises bring euphoria to some. For others, melancholy.

Synnøve, Mackenzie, The Black Knight, Lucky, Tim Williams, Étienne, Bella Andreini, Pati.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Training conditions are good at Archangel Road... you can see by these photos.
The trail was groomed this morning.

Look at the size of that bee!

Friday, May 2, 2014

First Training Day of the Year

Yesterday was May 1 and according to Lucky, this meant it was the first training day of the year.  To celebrate, Lucky brought me to Hatcher Pass for some crust skiing. When we got to the parking spot, we found we weren't the only ones who'd gotten up early for some training.
Eric Packer, Lukas Ebner, Reese Hanneman

There was some climbing to get to the Snowbird Basin.

Snowbird Basin - our turnaround spot

There was good skiing on the lake.

It was this warm.

Normally on an outing such as this with Lucky, you'd expect to hear that distinctive crackling sound of  breaking carbon fiber, as Lucky's skis and poles disintegrate around him.  But he made it all the way to the turnaround spot without a single broken ski or pole!  Truthfully, it was a little spooky and I started wondering if perhaps the earth had tilted on its axis or if Jupiter and Mars were in alignment or something, because something just felt wrong!  But then about 100 meters into the return trip, the world was set to right again when I heard the comforting snap of a Triac pole, and knew everything was normal and the apocalypse was, in fact, not at hand.

Eric Packer; Team Stratton; a little norpine action.

It got a little soft in a couple spots near the end of our trip.  Here's Lucky doing his "moose" imitation.