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!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Snapshot in Time

The skiing is pretty good around here these days.

Here's Berit Flora trying out here new skintec skis.

Zacke and Brandon

Quail and Hannah

And by the time we left, it was starting to snow again.
And again, thanks to Ed Strabel and the Mat-Su Ski Club for the grooming!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018


Looks like we won't need to bring the rollerskis out of storage anytime soon. Ed Strabel, Jeff Case and the Mat-Su crew usually keep grooming at Hatcher Pass until all the snow is melted away.  And we've gotten about three feet of new snow over the past week on top of the deep snow that was already there. When this new snow melts down or gets rained on, it's probably going to make for some great crust skiing at Hatcher later this spring!  And of course there will also be good groomed classic and skate skiing on the 15km out-and-back Archangel Road, regardless of the crust conditions.  Thanks, Ed!

On my way home from skiing, I dropped by the Bear Tooth Theatre to hear APU's Olympians talk about their experiences in South Korea.  Here's 2009 Seawolf (and 6th in the 2018 Overall World Cup rankings!) Sadie Bjornsen discussing how the team got ready for the relay. Not everyone on that stage was in the Olympics, but a lot of them were.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Spring Flings

From time to time, I cross paths with people who don't live in Alaska, and have never lived in Alaska. Often these same people tell me that they would like to visit Alaska, and they ask me when is the best time to come. If these people are active, sporty people like you and me, I tell them they should be able to find some fun stuff to do between March 1 and July 1. There's enough snow on the ground that you can go some places where you can't easily go any time other than springtime. And there's enough sun in the sky that you need the sunblock to keep from getting burnt to a crisp.

It's the best season for ski touring.

Snacks beside the trail

I like wearing this hat because it reminds me of my old friend Joe, who died long ago. Every time I'd wear it, he'd say "Asker.  Just Asker!!"

You can ski on the beach in Anchorage after work.

The trails at Kincaid Park are still in good shape.

I first met Kikkan Randall when she was in 7th grade. We were both out snowboarding at Arctic Valley. We've known each other a long time. We played on a beer-league summer soccer team together with her younger brother Tanner years ago, and she moved into my old apartment when I moved out. Before I was a volunteer assistant coach at UAA, I was a volunteer assistant coach on Wednesday afternoons at East High School when Kikkan was on the team. I didn't imagine back then that Kikkan would win the Olympics. But I'm really glad she did. Because if anyone is deserving of an Olympic gold medal, it's Kikkan. Celebrating this year's Olympic Team in downtown Anchorage this spring was pretty special.

Alyeska is a fun place to go skiing

Skiing near sea level

The biking is good in the spring, too. You can go to some pretty cool places.

Airplanes are a good way to get around, too.

And of course there's crust skiing.

There's good skiing in Prince William Sound

Pati's back in town!  Pati Sprecher has moved back to Anchorage after completing her master's degree in Switzerland. If anybody knows someone who knows someone who has a job available in tourism or marketing or both, please let Pati know; she's ready to become a slave to "the man"!

Springtime's a good time for ski testing. Here are the coaches helping Brandon and Michaela solve some ski riddles on the Anchorage trails.
But the best thing about springtime is that you can strap your skis onto the back of the motorcycle and ride to the ski spot, thereby combining two of the finer things in life.