Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Alyeska Reconnaissance Mission

The sun was not shining inside my office, and the weather out the window looked so nice I couldn't stay in that office any longer, so we decided to get outside for some hiking in the afternoon.  It had been a few years since the UAA Nordic Team hiked Max's Mountain in Girdwood; it seemed like a fun destination for an afternoon hike - a little reconnaissance mission. 

Climbing up out of the valley through the trees.

Girdwood Valley

Turnagain Arm.

Girdwood.  From Max's Mountain.

Alyeska Ski Resort.

Alyeska Peak - our destination.

Looking back at what we've climbed so far - Max's Mountain.

Climbing the southwest ridge of Alyeska Mountain.

Looking back into Winner Creek Valley.  There's still a lot of snow back there!

Descending the cornice overhanging Glacier Bowl.

Cornice over Glacier Bowl.

We didn't count on this much snow....  And this ended up causing us a real problem!  Usually, we would descend back down to the top of the Alyeska tramway on a dirt and rock trail down the shoulder of the mountain, but now there were several steep cornices blocking our way, and we had only brought one ice axe, one climbing harness and some webbing.  To try to traverse those cornices seemed too risky, so we ended up scrambling all over Mt. Alyeska to find a way around it, and in the end, we ended up descending the cliff overhanging Glacier Bowl, full of loose rock and scree.  We spent the next 2.5 hours traveling about 300 meters, scratching our way down a loose, steep slope.  It was NOT relaxing, and my camera stayed in my backpack while we focused on making smart choices...

....but in the end, with ice axe and clinbing harness, we did make it down to Alyeska Glacier at last.

It was a relief to be back on the glacier.  Our route was down the slope in the rear center of the photos.

The upper tram station.  We made it down in time for the last ride down.

Alyeska Prince Hotel; 9:30pm.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

This is not about the UAA Ski Team

I travel around Alaska a lot for work.  I seem to spend more time in airplanes than in my office.  The view is definitely better from my "mobile office".  Here are some of the things I saw during the past five days.

Unalaska, in the Aleutian Islands

Unalaska from ground level.

In Unalaska, the eagles are like chickens. There was a barbecue going on next door, and this one was waiting for his chance to steal some grilled salmon.

Iliamna Volcano, near Anchorage.

Togiak from the air.

...and from the ground.

I was not in the plane when this happened - in Togiak.

Near Cordova, Alaska

Looks to me like there's still some good skiing in Cordova.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bra Dammen

If you're not too busy, take a moment to check out this TV ad from Norway.  That's former UAA skier Kjetil Dammen wearing bib 21, though it looks like he lent his old UAA zoot suit to the dude in bib 4.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Red Salmon

Lasse's parents are visiting from Denmark this week.  Lasse took them fishing yesterday.  He claims they caught seven fish, but I only see three.  I wonder how his parents feel about him joining the U.S. Air Force...

Monday, July 16, 2012

All roads lead to Hatcher's

Davis and Lasse wanted to spend this afternoon doing rollerski intervals at Hatcher Pass, and they invited me to come along.  I didn't need a better excuse to go out to the garage and see if I could locate my rusty old rollerskis, which hadn't seen any action since last October, so I accepted their offer to come along with them.  The boys told me the plan was to park a car at the bottom of the pass (740 ft elevation), another one at the top of the pass (3,500 feet elevation), and ski 8 x 6-minute intervals on the way up.  It's a workout we have done several times before.  (But I have to admit I've never tried this as my first rollerski workout of the year.) The weather was perfect - no wind, cloudy, and foggy with light rain at the top.

The warm-up

Ready for the first interval.  Showing off their "Alaska tans".

At the start of interval number eight.  Of course I had to take some pictures, so unfortanately I had to skip this one.

Davis and Lasse.

Hatcher Pass Lodge.

Warming down. The snow isn't all melted yet...

The warm-down at the top - Independence Mine.

I think Lasse spotted our parked car!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ski Racer / Firefighter

Cara McCulloch is a new UAA skier for 2012 from Smithers, British Columbia, Canada.  Smithers is located on the eastern side of the Coast Mountains in central BC, just about as close as you can get to Alaska without actually being in Alaska.  I don't know much about Smithers other than what I saw on Google Earth a few minutes ago, but Smithers sure looks like a nice place; the kind of place I'd like to go on a motorcycle trip. 
I don't know who the kid is.

Cara has spent the past couple of years studying at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.  Downtown Vancouver doesn't get a lot of snow, and it is my understanding that Cara has been doing a lot more running for the track team than skiing for the ski team.  According to Andrew, Cara has been missing skiing and is looking forward to living somewhere that allows her to ski more and run less. I didn't get much information out of Andrew before he left for Colorado, though he did tell me that Cara works during the summers as a firefighter, rapelling in to forest fires from a helicopter.  I'm looking forward to hearing more about that!

I lifted this photo off the University of British Columbia track team website.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

You can call him "Skimeister"

Of all the incoming freshman skiers on this year's UAA Ski Team, John Glen undoubtedly knows the coaches better than anyone else.  That's because John spent a couple of weeks last spring skiing across the Northwest Arctic region of Alaska with Lars Flora and Andrew Kastning, teaching kids how to ski. 

(John's the one with the glasses)
Skiing for Service High School in Anchorage, John is the 2012 Cook Inlet Conference "Skimeister" (Anchorage area high school racing league champion) but he has big shoes to fill - his older sister's shoes.  After graduating early from high school, John's sister Amy skied for UAA for one year before moving to Vermont for the remainder of her college skiing career.  Amy won one race during her college skiing career.  It was a big one.  She won her last college race - the 2012 NCAA Championship last March in Montana:

Though not every kid coming out of high school likes to hear "try to be like your sister", we hope that at least in some ways, John will follow in his sister's footsteps.

Monday, July 9, 2012

You can call him "Coach"

Last week I realized I have a lot of work to do this summer if I'm going to have any hope of keeping up with any of the UAA skiers next fall when team training begins.  So I headed out to Elliot's Climb at Kincaid Park for my first interval session in a very, very long time to try to do something about it.  About halfway through my session, as I stumbled up the hill, struggling not to trip over my tongue, who should come riding up behind me on his mountain bike looking like Cadel Evans in his BMC jersey, but Lars Flora - UAA's new assistant Nordic coach.   Of course, Lars looked a lot more comfortable going uphill than I.  But that's to be expected because, after all, Lars was racing on the World Cup circuit just last winter.  Lars comes to the UAA Ski Team as a 6-time national champion and a veteran of fifteen World Championship races, seven races at the Olympic Games, and 44 World Cup races.  Not only will Lars bring his experience and expertise from his recent World Cup experiences to the team, but he will surely add to the level at UAA practices in the fall and winter.  Keeping up with Lars will not be easy for anyone.

Like Étienne and Viktor, Lars has his own web site, so you can find out lots more information about Lars at http://larsflora.com/

Welcome to our team, Lars!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Swiss Miss

The Swiss are known for their discretion.  Think Swiss bank accounts, for example.  Or the Swiss self-defense bunkers scattered throughout the Alps.  Once, while visiting a friend in Davos, I asked her if it was true that there is a series of defense bunkers and tunnels throughout the Alps.  She said, "If there are any bunkers, and I'm not saying there are, I sure as hell wouldn't tell you about them because it's none of your damn business."  The Swiss are a people who know how to keep their secrets.

So I was not surprised when I started this series of blog posts about our new UAA skiers for next year, and had trouble finding out anything about Patricia Sprecher.  Sure, anyone can find some ski results on the internet.  But I was looking for something more interesting.  More personal and colorful.  That's why I keep and maintain a band of minions.  My minions can go out and find out interesting facts and tidbits and bring them back to me so that I can pass them on to you, the inquiring public.
Today, one of my minions came to me with a very interesting paparazzi photo.  It's shocking, really.  Apparently, Patricia Sprecher has already been on the UAA Ski Team, but none of us knew about it.  If you look at the photo below, you'll see that she's already wearing the UAA team jacket.

See what I mean?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Winter will be here soon

It seems like forever since it snowed here!  It's been a few weeks at least.  I was starting to get bummed because it's been well over a week since the last time I went skiing or snowboarding, and it seems like summer is never going to end.  So I was relieved when I looked up at the mountains from Anchorage, on my way to go hiking with Danielle in on the Kenai Peninsula, and saw that it had been snowing overnight.  So it shouldn't be long before we get snow in town and can start skiing at Kincaid Park again.  Let's hope!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pic o' the day

Here's Galen Johnston on the summit of Denali earlier this week.
It's not his first time.
He's been there before.