Saturday, June 30, 2012

Gun Play

Here's an easy trivia question:  What do Alaskans like more than anything else?  Oil?  Coming home to a nice warm igloo in the evening after work? The Hawaiian Islands? 

No, of course not.  If you've spent any time at all in Alaska you know that Alaskans love their guns!  Alaskans like shooting guns.  They like looking at guns.  They like talking about guns....  That's why I think Marine Dusser is going to fit in real well here on the UAA Ski Team.  I came across this video montage of Marine the other day.  Notice anything in common in all the video clips?  That's right - Marine is never far from a rifle.

...and I don't know exactly what this second video is about.  (Marine's not in it.)  But I saw Cracker at Chilkoot Charlie's one evening a few years ago and they were great.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Viking Ships

Everyone knows about the Vikings.  Those were the people who got in their open boats a thousand years ago and splashed around all over the Atlantic Ocean, burning and pillaging as they went, and colonizing places like Iceland and Greenland.  The Vikings were known as really good boaters. 

So when Lasse and four of his Viking friends from Denmark invited me to go paddling with them in Prince William Sound today, of course I said yes.  Anchorage was cloudy and gray all day (so I heard), but Prince William Sound saw nothing but sunshine.  Sure, it qualified as "cross-training" but it was pretty hard to call it "training" with weather like this.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


When I was a freshman in college, one of the first things I remember my ski coach, Gordon Lange saying was, "In college, you've got the three S's:  School, Sport, and Social life.  So choose two." 

Sarah Freistone is an incoming freshman from Anchorage who is going to have a slightly different take on that maxim.  She'll be running cross-country for the UAA team in the fall, and then skiing for the ski team during the winter.  She found success with this combination at Dimond High School, where she was one of the fastest high school distance runners in the state, and also one of fastest skiers.  Having grown up here in Anchorage, she should know all the good training spots, and maybe she can show us some good rollerski roads and running trails that the coaches don't know about. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Looks like Marine Dusser will not be the only francophone on the UAA Ski Team next year.  Last week, Étienne Richard signed a Letter of Intent to ski for UAA.  Étienne comes from a small town on the Gaspé Peninsula in eastern Québec, but lately he's been going to college at Université Laval in Québec City, training at Mont St. Anne with the Centre National d'Entraînement Pierre Harvey, and chasing the Canadian racing circuit around.

Anyone who's been on the UAA Ski Team in recent years has been subjected to my stories about Bernie LaFleur, another Québeqois from Laval who was my teammate when I was in college, and one of the most amazing athletes I've ever known.  He had a way of limping and stumbling through time trials, minor races, and medium-size races - consistently not among the top skiers.  But every time the big championships came around, he had a way of pulling himself together and doing amazing things. And every time, you just knew he was going to do something big, because he'd be in his own little world (often in the wax room) for days before the race, so focused that you couldn't even talk to the guy. As I recall, he usually did the same thing around final exam week.  I don't think he even slept during the last week of school each semester. Bernie won the NCAA Championships in 1992.

Anyway, none of that has much to do with Étienne, except for their Québeqois roots.  But I'm looking forward to seeing what Étienne brings to our team.  If you want to find out more about Étienne, he's made it very easy for you.  All you need to do is click on the link at the bottom of this page.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fire and Ice

Just because it's the hottest day of the year doesn't mean the snowboarding conditions aren't excellent.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Scorched Earth

When I was in college, I had a teammate from Sweden named Esbjörn Larsson who said "Good skiers are made during the summer." Something similar could be said about college ski teams:  "Good skiers are recruited during the summer." Here at UAA Ski Team World Headquarters, the coaches have been hard at work to lay the foundation for a successful winter of ski racing.  Among other things, that means athlete recruiting.  Though no formal announcement has been made yet, we've recently signed some new skiers to the UAA Ski Team.  I hadn't gotten explicit permission to say anything about these athletes, so I've kept quiet about it.  But today I got the OK from the coaches. So this blog post will be the first in a series of news flashes about the new recruits, in no particular order.

We'll start in Sweden.

Last week, Viktor Brännmark signed a "Letter of Intent" to join the UAA Ski Team next year.  Viktor is a 20-year-old from northern Sweden who has spent the last few years skiing and studying Älvsbyn, close to Boden, Sweden.  If you look at the video I posted last week, I'm pretty sure Viktor is the dude landing barrel rolls with a telemark landing.... and licking the camera.

A survey of the FIS website shows that Viktor has been doing a lot of ski racing lately, and fast racing it has been.  So it looks like Viktor knows how to go uphill as well as downhill.

If you speak any Swedish, Norwegian, or Danish, you already know that "Brännmark" means "Scorched Earth" and I take that as a very good sign!


Välkommen, Viktor!

(you can find out more about Viktor at )

It was a scorcher out there...

...Speaking of "scorched earth" - not only was today the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, in Alaska it was also one of the hottest.  I spent most of the day in Kodiak, where the thermometer almost exploded at 64 degrees F (17 degrees C).  I overheard someone in the grocery store saying they had been planning to mow their lawn this afternoon but it was waaayyyyyy too hot, so they would have to wait until it cools down in the evening.

When I landed in Anchorage this evening, it was even hotter - 69 F (20 C).  But despite the heat, I thought it was time to take a bike ride up the Vicious Verrier Rollerski Time Trial Course.  Among other things, my computer said I gained 930 feet (283 meters) over 4.6 miles (7.4 km). 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Coaches Meeting

 The coaches had a lot to discuss.  It was time to get together and talk about last year's UAA Ski Team, next year's team, what could improve, what should stay the same, ski racers, ski wax, and skis. It seemed appropriate to discuss it while skiing.  A 7-hour ski trip seemed about right.

I've never skied Pyramid Peak.  It rises 3,285 feet out of the mud on the south side of Turnagain Arm, and it looks so perfect from the highway; you can look across the fjord at it as you drive past.  And I always do. But you can't reach it from here unless you're ready to take your chances with the huge tides and sticky mud flats of Turnagain Arm.

The easiest way to get to the top of Pyramid Peak is to park at the top of Turnagain Pass, climp up onto Seattle Ridge, and then traverse several miles down the ridge, finally climbing up the back side of Pyramid Peak.

That's the backside of Pyramid Peak in the background.

Turnagain Arm from the top of Pyramid. Girdwood Valley in the background.

We decided to ski down the center chute.  I didn't take any pictures from up higher because I was focused on staying out of the four inches of wet slough that came down the mountain with us, with the potential to drag us down over some rocks if we weren't paying attention. But here's Andrew on the lower section.

Our plan had been to climb back up after our descent, and then traverse back to the car the way we came.  But it didn't seem like such a great idea to be on that sloughy wet snow without skis on our feet. So we opted to keep going downhill, to try a different way out - at sea level. 

Besides, it wouldn't be a real Alaska trip unless we did some bushwhacking.
Would you take skiing advice from these two characters?

Sea level, and the marsh grass of Turnagain Arm. 

After we took our boots off to cross a channel on the mud flats, it felt better to walk the last couple miles barefoot rather than squeezing back into those plastic things.
Of course, our change of plans left us several miles from where we'd parked the car, so there was some hitch-hiking involved.  I finally went over the beef jerky stand and talked some hapless travelers into giving Andrew a ride.

Meeting adjourned.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Slopestyle Swedestyle

I used to think Sweden was completely flat ...until I saw this video.
Now I know that Sweden has at least one hill.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Fantasy Fußball

Generally, I'm not the kind of sports fan who follows teams, or scores, or rankings...  I don't usually care too much who wins.  I just like to see a good battle, or be involved in a good battle myself.  But the three L's - Lutz, Lasse, and Lucky have sucked me into the EUFA European Championships being held in Poland and Ukraine this summer.  Both Denmark and Germany are in Group B.  Germany has beaten Holland and Portugal.  But while Denmark beat Holland, they lost to Portugal.  On Sunday, Germany plays Denmark in their final match of group play before the quarterfinals.  A friend sent me this ticket to the game, but I'm too busy and can't make it to Ukraine to see the match in person.  Apparently, Germany is feeling very confident going into the Denmark match...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summerwinter 2012

Yesterday, it seemed like everyone who lives in Anchorage was hiking up Flattop Mountain.  I didn't want to be left out.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Either Jaime Bronga is going to need a bigger house...

...or she's going to need to rent a storage unit to keep all her awards in. 

If you had been thinking you'd like to win an atheletic or academic award in the past few years, you might as well forget about it, because Jaime won them all.

Congratulations, Jaime!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Yin / Yang

The bad news is the weather around Anchorage lately has been cool, rainy, snowy, and kind of wintry, and I haven't gone skiing in the past couple weeks. 

The good news is I haven't been here in Alaska.  I've been riding my motorcycle across the Mojave Desert, where it's been over 100 degrees and sunny - all the time.

One nice thing about using a big dual-sport motorcycle to cross a desert is you don't always need a road.  Sometimes, you can just aim for a spot on the distant horizon and go.

Of course, it's always smart to have enough water to walk to the nearest road... and that can be a long walk.

105 degrees is very hot when you're wearing your armored snowsuit.

My ultimate destination was the Lightning in a Bottle festival in southern California, where I met my friends Andrea, John, Sheila, and about 12,000 other people for four days of music and camping.