Monday, April 30, 2012

Andrew Travels to Northwest Arctic

Andrew spent last week teaching skiing to kids in Noorvik and Selawik, in the northwestern corner of Alaska.  He was part of a small group of ski coaches and athletes from Alaska and the Lower 48 who traveled to the Northwest Arctic region. His trip started with a commercial jet flight to Kotzebue.  From there, he got on a local flight to nearby Noorvik:

Noorvik skiers:

The coaches then geared up and skied from Noorvik to Selawik:

A herd of caribou along the route:


Andrew is back in Anchorage now, but it looks like he had an experience in the northwest arctic that he won't soon forget!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Powerline Pass

The UAA skiers have final exams this week and next week, so this morning Lutz, Davis and Lasse elected to go skiing close to town, early in the morning.  Powerline Pass is about a 15-minute drive from the University.  We went for a quick 90 minute ski so they could be back at school before 9:30 AM.  The first ten minutes of skiing is kind of bumpy, but it got pretty nice as we went farther up the valley.

Near the parking lot:

The Wedge:

Ptarmigan Peak on the right:

Anchorage is at the bottom of the valley.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


"Skookum" is an old Alaska term for "good, sturdy, or stout".  For example, if you build a cabin that'll keep you warm for the winter without the roof caving in from the snow, it's a skookum cabin.  Or if you build a raft that will make it down the Yukon River, loaded with lots of heavy supplies, and can handle a knock into the occasional rock or go through rapids without tipping over or sinking, you've built a skookum raft.  Today, Lutz and Lasse invited me to go skiing with them before school at Skookum Glacier, in Placer Valley at the end of Turnagain Arm.  We left town before 7 AM.  A couple weeks ago, we skied past Skookum Valley on our way to the more distant Spencer Glacier.  The snow in Skookum Valley looked really bumpy then, and the sun hadn't gotten into the valley.  Today, we decided to go back and see what we'd missed.  It hasn't gotten any less bumpy.

 We found that a lot of the snow bridges over the streams had melted out over the past couple weeks, and we needed to do some route-finding to make our way up the valley.  There were a few places we thought about jumping across, but the consequences of a failed jump didn't seem worth it.

At the top of Skookum Valley, we found the wall of ice at the foot of Skookum Glacier.

We obviously got a lot of snow during winter 2012.

We found a way around the ice wall, and were able to ski up onto the glacier.  This is looking up toward the head of the glacier, with Carpathian Peak at the back of the valley.

Looking down the valley from Skookum Glacier.  Lutz has been working on some new dance moves that he's planning to break out this summer on the Furtwangen dance circuit.

There's some nice terrain for skiing on the glacier, as long as you keep your wits about you.

On our way back home, we saw evidence that there's a lot of melting snow in the valley.  Here's some "overflow", where meltwater is flowing over the snow instead of under it.  If you stick a ski pole into the stream there's nothing but slush underneath.  I'm not sure what would happen if you tried to ski across it.  We didn't try.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Skiwolf Challenge, Part II

Coming off the slalom course, Niko was in the lead and it was not looking good for the "uphillers" because Niko grew up in Rovaniemi, Finland, which is known for its cross-country skiing. In fact, many of the leaders going into the XC portion were looking pretty formidable.  Borg has come out and skied intervals with the XC team in the past.  Ida, the women's leader, is from north of the Arctic Circle, where nordic skiing is a way of life.  It was clear that the Nordic skiers would have an "uphill battle" if they were going to catch the chairlift riders.




Ida & Anna:

Eventually, (almost) all the chairlift-riders were on course and the cross-country skiers (and coaches) could only watch helplessly as they skied out of sight:

But finally, the chase was on:

By the end of the first lap, Lasse had managed to catch Borg and moved into the lead for good:

Just one more lap to go, Brew...

Anna and Lutz:



Davis & Ida:

Check out this classic Sean series, as he gets the better of the Nordic coach:

Andreas fended off Nevio:

And Brew held off Lutz:

Finish line carnage:

Karina managed to catch Ida for the women's title:


Laura, Anais and Anna:


In the end, it was Lasse and Karina who prevailed in 2012.  Next year, who knows what the alpine-to-nordic time penalty will be...?