Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cold weather = UAA time trial

If Andrew schedules a UAA team time trial, you can be pretty sure the weather is going to get really cold. Today's skiathlon workout was no exception.

I'd have taken more pictures but the cold killed my camera.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Another day, another interval...

Today we did some skating intervals.  The UAA Ski Team is happy to be back at sea level again after several weeks of thin air.  In fact, today we started each of our intervals at about 50 feet above sea level and climbed up to around... well, you'll be able to estimate for yourself from the photos.
Sarah picking up a little mid-interval advice from her coach.

Patricia cresting Lone Tree Hill. (New UAA skiers wouldn't know this place as Lone Tree Hill, though, because the "Lone Tree" fell down in a wind storm last summer.  The Lone Tree used to be right there hanging over the ski trail, on the right hand side of this picture.  It was one of the better trees you'll ever lay eyes on. It always looked like a perfect roost for a vulture, waiting for dead and dying skiers at the top of the Lekisch climb.)

Viktor and Lucky


Galen of the Mountain

The Black Knight

What's this???! Some kind of Norwegian armadillo?  A new kind of nordic spine protector? Swix's marketing director? No, it's just Tor taking care of his assistant-coach grunt work - schlepping the kids' clothes and drink belts up the hill to the finish of the interval loop for them. And that's Andrew doing the same in front of him.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

DU Invite Final Results are...
...and in other news, I made a new friend this afternoon.  This is Suvan Max Schwörer, son of Darcy Dugan and Toby Schwörer, a former UAA Ski Team all-star from just a few years back. Congratulations Darcy and Toby!!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Saturday Results from Minturn, Colorado

Congratulations to Lukas Ebner for the win today, and Marine Dusser for second place!  The men's team won today with Viktor in 7th and Lasse in 14th, and the women were third, with Sarah 18th and Pati 22nd.  The UAA Nordic Team (men and women combined) finished second today, which lifts the overall team (alpine and nordic) to fifth. More racing tomorrow.

Results here:

Coach Tor and friends. (Notice Tor has already removed his bib and is asking for more sunblock.)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Le Gaspésien est Arrivé

Here's photographic proof that Étienne Richard has finally found his way from Quebec to his new home in Alaska.  Welcome to the UAA Ski Team, Étienne!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Video Killed the Radio Star

I guess the boys consider themselves documentarians now.  You should check out this video that Lasse put together today. Apparently Viktor isn't aware that ski patrol pulls your ticket for straightlining alpine runs at American ski resorts. I'm already looking forward to the next installment of UAA Ski Team Reality TV!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ski Team Media Guide

Hey UAA Ski Team fans!  Are you like me?  Do you love thinking about the UAA Ski Team and its athletes and coaches?!  Do you sometimes wonder where these athletes came from?!  Or what they're studying in college?!  Do you sometimes wonder how many UAA All-American skiers there have been, or whether Tiina Kantola ever won an NCAA Championship?! Do you ever wish all this fascinating and exciting information could be held in one little book that you could print off and take with you on the subway or the sports bar so you could look up the answers to your questions at a moment's notice?!  Well, now you can because the 2013 UAA Ski Team Media Guide is now hot off the press, and available to you now for the low, low price of FREE!

Imagine - no more awkward pauses during your Thursday-night games of UAA Ski Team Trivial Pursuit as you try to try to remember if Frode Lillefjell won the NCAA Championship in 1996... or was it 1997?  Did UAA have five NCAA All-Americans in 1979... or were there only four?  Is Davis Dunlap from Wasilla, Alaska... or Palmer?  Is Cam Brewington studying finance... or biology?  The answers to all these questions and many, many more are available for you at the simple click of a button!  So why wait?!  Click on the link below and you could be on your way to a whole new realm of excitement and exploration! 
The 2013 UAA Ski Team Media Guide - It's what winners read!!

ps. There may be a pop quiz later.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Steamboat Springs Recap

Today, the team completed the second of two days of racing at the University of Colorado Invitational races in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.  It was a good start to the college racing season for the team, showing that we are in a solid position at the start of the season, and can be the best team in the west with some improvements and adaptations here and there. 

On Saturday, the women competed in a 15km mass-start race.  Marine was in the lead group, and by the time that group neared the finish, the group was whittled down to three skiers.  Marine ended up second. In the men's 20km race, it was much the same situation for Lukas, who was in the leading group of six skiers (four college skiers plus two non-college skiers). The top four college skiers finished within eight seconds, with Lukas finishing third. In addition, Viktor found his way into the top-10 with a 9th place finish.

On Sunday, it was individual-start classic races: 5km for women and 10km for men. Marine was fourth, just .3 seconds off the podium, and Patricia was also in the top-10, in 9th place.  On the men's side, Lukas had another solid race in 4th, and Lasse moved up into 8th place.

Results for all the races are available here: You'll also notice that results are available from the alpine races and that the overall results combine mens' and womens' alpine and Nordic together for an overall team score.  This is the most important result in NCAA competition, as the Nordic teams cannot win NCAA's with the alpine team, and the chairlift-riders can't win NCAA's without us.  So we are watching the alpine results very closely and pulling for them, even if they're racing on a slalom hill hundreds of miles away from us. This is an element of NCAA skiing that really makes it fun and exciting - the fact that a good women's slalom team or a good men's Nordic team can't do it all on their own; they need all the other team members in Nordic and alpine to do their part. Check out the team scores and you'll see what I mean.

These races, like all RMISA college races, are qualifying races for the NCAA National Championships, to be held in Vermont in March.  Each team can only take a maximum of three skiers to NCAA's, so it is important for the athletes to ski well enough to qualify for NCAA's.  They need to not only ski fast enough to meet the NCAA's qualification standard (based on race placings throughout the season) but they must also prove to their coach that they are among the best three skiers on their own team.  You can also follow the qualifying lists for NCAA's at the RMISA website above.

The team will spend one more day (Monday) in Steamboat Springs before driving south to Minturn, Colorado for the last two races of this trip.

The coaches are excited about what they're seeing from the team so far.  There's a lot of smiles and laughter in the van and at the team's lodgings, hard work is being done in training, and the results are coming together. This year, our team is 50% new skiers - a huge amount of turnover in one year. Our new skiers are responding well to the new racing environment, learning to deal with high-altitude competition, and perhaps learning a thing or two along the way from our skiers who have been racing on the NCAA circuit for a year or two already.  We definitely have room for improvement, but things are coming together, and we're pretty optimistic looking forward!

I stole this picture from Lasse - from yesterday's race. That's Viktor (on the sideline) and Marine (leading the race).

Crossing Colorado by van - Lukas


Friday, January 11, 2013

The 'Boat

The team races Saturday and Sunday in Steamboat Springs, CO.  I'm not with the team. I might be out on an adventure somewhere and I might not be very quick to post results, etc.  You can likely find results at:

Go UAA!!!


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Get in the van!

The UAA Ski Team finished off US Nationals week on Sunday with a 30k mass-start classic race for the men, 20K for the women, 10k for the junior boys and 5k for the junior girls. It was a day of mixed results for our skiers, but some really good results in the mix, and some good learning experiences as well.  The men raced first and it was an exciting one, with Viktor leading the race in its early stages before eventually fading back into the middle of the pack.  Meanwhile, Lasse and Lucky were moving in the opposite direction, and skied most of the middle part of the race in the lead pack of twenty, until the pack broke up and Lasse ended up seventeenth and Lukas eighteenth. Ski selection and altitude experience seemed to have something to do with the results, as Lasse and Lukas opted for a little stickier skis (especially Lasse), while Viktor chose skis with a little harder kick wax, requiring him to use his arms more to make up for his slightly slick skis.  In addition, it was Lasse and Lucky's third year of Rocky Mountain racing, while Viktor experienced his first weekend at altitude. In the end, Lasse skied the best race of his entire life, which is especially nice since he had had a disappointing skate race just two days before which had left him dazed and confused.  Soldier Hollow has historically been quite good to Lucky and Lasse.  A couple years ago, Lucky was the RMISA Western Region Champion here, and Lasse was second. Viktor, for his part, is perhaps following the path of the great Bjorn Daehlie.  Early in his career, Daehlie could be counted on to start aggressively and take the early lead in World Cup races, only to fade in the later stages of the races.  But with more World Cup experience he got closer and closer to the finish line before fading, and eventually started winning them regularly, becoming the greatest cross-country skier ever.  It’s fun to coach a skier who’s always eager to charge into battle, even if he sometimes pays for it in the later stages of the race.  I think it’s a fun and exciting coach/athlete relationship in which the coach says “You need to be more patient and conservative at the start,” and though the athlete tries, he just can’t help himself and comes charging out of the starting gate like a lab puppy. Eventually, through trial and error, the athlete can temper his own eagerness to meet the demands of the topography and atmospheric pressure.  It's a lot more fun way to go through the process than if the coach is always having to tell the athlete, "For the fifth time - get your ass off the couch and onto your rollerskis!"

On the women's side, Marine spent the race learning how to classic ski.  We had a bit of a scare early in the first lap when she had to get instructions from some of her competitors on how to use "classic" technique to climb a short, steep hill, but the skiers around her were kind enough to tell her how it's done, and by the end of the race Marine was in eleventh place overall - better than her skating result from two days before.  Not bad, considering that she comes to Alaska with a biathlon (skating) background. Marine told me after the race, "I learned a lot by watching the girls around me and trying to ski behind the smoothest skiers. By the end of the race I was a lot better classic skier than I was at the beginning." Karina had a good race, too, especially considering that she had only been back in the USA for about 48 hours prior to her race, after going through a difficult patch with the US Customs Service in Chicago. 

And in the final race of the day, Sarah raced in the junior girls’ mass start.  This was the most physically brutal race of the day, with about a hundred girls making a mad dash for a finish line that was only a scant 5,000 meters away from the starting line. It looked like a Nordic version of “American Gladiators” as the field charged up the first long uphill to a soundtrack of ski poles snapping in every direction.  Sarah made it through the first kilometer with no problem and had worked herself into around tenth place until someone stumbled on a short bump of an uphill at the 1km mark, and then couldn’t get up on account of all the other girls stepping on her as they scrambled past.  Sarah estimated she was stuck there for around ten seconds, which dropped her back to around 30th place.  She spent the next few kilometers climbing back to twentieth, and came to the 4km mark just before the biggest, steepest climb of the race, in nineteenth.  But climbing is Sarah’s strong suit, and 500 meters later she was in eighth.  Sarah finished the race seventh and in so doing (I assume) has pre-qualified herself for the junior national championships so she won’t have to compete in any more Alaska junior qualifier races, which she would not have been able to do anyway due to her college racing schedule.  This leaves the door open for her to compete at Junior Nationals, should it fit in her schedule in March. It was pretty funny to overhear the stories of various junior girls after their race, discussing how many crashes they’d been in and how many skiers they’d skied over, while nursing facial lacerations and bloody noses.  For next year’s national championships, I vote for a senior men’s 5km mass start!

On Monday, the team packed the van and moved on to Steamboat Springs, Colorado for the next weekend of racing while I boarded a plane back to Alaska and then on to Kodiak Island where I am tonight.  I always love returning home to Anchorage from wherever I've been traveling.  I love seeing the city from the plane window during the descent over the Chugach mountains on the glide path into the airport.  But I've been involved with the UAA Ski Team for about ten years now, and each year I enjoy it more and more. I thoroughly enjoyed spending this past week with the team, getting to know them better, and I'm already looking forward to the NCAA Championships in Middlebury, Vermont in March!
From here in Alaska, I can't keep the blog updated as regularly as I could if I were with the team.  But you can follow them more closely on the blogs of three of the team members.  Viktor says he plans to update his blog each day while on the road.  If he doesn't update it often enough, just write "Dags at uppdatera!" in the comment section of his blog.  That's what his mom does. He knows what it means. Lasse writes his blog in Danish.  It's easy - anyone can read Danish.  And Lucky writes his blog in English so that his Mom can practice her english by reading what he writes. From these blogs, you can get an inside perspective from some of our skiers



Marine. We need to work on her skating to bring it up to the level of her classic skiing.

I guess I never realized how ugly my legs were until today. Here's the result of a little "parking lot accident" I had a couple days ago. No wonder it took me three full laps before my ankle loosened up enough for me to effectively test the kick wax we were considering for Sunday's race. Hoping to be fully healed by the time the team comes back to Anchorage in a couple weeks. (By the way, thank you to "team medic" Galen for patching me up and keeping me able to stumble around on it over the past couple of days.)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Rocky Mountain Racing

Day after day, just the same.  Cold temperatures, easy waxing, consistent track conditions from first skier to last, and sunshine - lots of it.  We've got race two of three behind us now, with one more national championship race coming up tomorrow - 20km for women, 30km for men, 5km for junior women and 10km for junior men - all classic mass start.  The skiers went for an easy hour of skiing today to loosen up from yesterday and prepare for tomorrow, while the coaches did a little more ski testing for both glide and kick.  We've had good skis all week so far, but the waxing is easy enough that our own waxing decisions have probably been pretty similar or identical to the other wax technicians out there this week.

Yesterday, we were a little (a lot) more in our element than we were in the sprint race on Wednesday, and our results showed it.  Marine was thirteenth overall and she was the second RMISA college woman, while Lukas was 24th overall and the fifth best RMISA college skier.  We've been at altitude for about five days.  This is the toughest period of adaptation to altitude, in my opinion, and some of our skiers felt pretty heavy in the legs.  Not a surprise.  But we also had some really encouraging results, and we're feeling optimistic about the coming college racing season.  You can find results at

Erik Bjornsen stopped by this afternoon to join some of our team for an easy 40-minute run.  Erik was a member of the UAA Ski Team in 2011 before moving on to the US Ski Team, and he won yesterday's race - his first ever national championship victory.

In case you were wondering, dinners here are amazing.  Every night, a different athlete head chef and his/her sous-chefs create the best food I've eaten in a long time.  Every afternoon I wonder what kind of epicurean delight awaits at the evening's dinner table.  It's going to make me miss this team next week when they continue their journey around the rocky mountains for more racing and I'm back home in Alaska with my peanut butter sandwiches.

After a sunny, restful day today, we'll get the skis prepared tonight and we'll be ready for another go tomorrow. These mass-start races are exciting and I'm looking forward to screaming my lungs out at our skiers from the sidelines - while getting a suntan.

Team stretching the night before each race.

Outdoor ski waxing at our house.

Marine in action

Karina and Marine

Training on tomorrow's race course. That's the ski stadium in the background, and Heber Valley.

All of us

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Come Together...

For the past 24 hours, my job as "assistant to the assistant coach" has largely been comprised of airport taxi-driving duties.  I drove down to the city last night to pick up Cara and again this afternoon to pick up Karina.  Cara had an uneventful trip down from her home in Smithers, British Columbia, but Karina's trip didn't go so well.  Karina was actually supposed to show up here last night, but the fine folks at the US Customs and Immigration desk in Chicago had different ideas.  After more than three hours of dealing with their understaffed staff and then dealing with underinformed airline staff, she missed her connecting flight to Utah, had to stay overnight in Chicago and ended up stretching her 18 hour trip to 34 hours. But they're both here now and we're finally a complete team!

At least Karina's trip went better than that of Reini Neuhauser, an alpine skier who skied for us a few years back.  Reini flew back to Alaska from Austria a few years ago, was stopped by US Customs, interrogated overnight (with the bright lights, good cop/bad cop routine, the threats, and all that other crazy stuff you see on TV), then thrown in jail for a couple days and finally was told to buy himself a plane ticket back home to Austria and try again. (By the way, Reini had done nothing wrong.)  Alaska's congressional delegation got involved with an investigation into the incident, and I guess everything worked out, because Reini came back, got married, lives in Fairbanks and owns a fishing guide company. So at least Karina can be happy that she didn't end up like Reini!

Tomorrow we ski our first "college-style" race here in Utah.  It's a 10k for the women, who ski at 10AM, and then a 15k for the men at noon.  You can probably get start lists and results, etc at

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ready, Set, Sprint!

Day 1 of US Nationals is in the books.  The top 30 men and top 30 women advanced out of the qualification round to the heats, and today we had one qualifier:  Pati Sprecher.  Pati qualified eleventh and skied a smart, strong quarterfinal round - the first quarterfinal of the day - coming off the big downhill and into the final 200 meters on Sadie Bjornsen's heels in second place. But the field really came together dramatically as they transitioned around a turn and into the finish straightaway, and Pati got edged out of second and into third.  The top two advanced from each quarterfinal to the semis, along with two "lucky losers".  So we had to wait through all the quarterfinal rounds to see if Pati would advance to the semis, but it was not to be. 

Tomorrow is a rest day, and then we have individual-start skate races on Friday. Stay tuned. 

Now look at these pictures:



My favorite picture of the day for SO many reasons:  Coach Andrew and Lucky
Lunch Break: Andrew, Tor, Galen, Davis
Camp UAA

Andrew making his way to the high point of the course to cheer for Pati in the quarterfinal

Pati's cheerleaders: Tor, Viktor, Davis, Lucky, and Erin from APU

Pati is #11

Men's Final
Adam, Andrew, Tor

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Little House on the Prairie

Today was spent preparing for tomorrow's sprint race.  The coaches spent several hours testing skis while the athletes tested their own skis and got comfortable with the sprint course.  It's a pretty straightforward course - the first half is uphill and the second half is downhill.  Sprint racing is not part of the NCAA race format; there are no sprint races at our NCAA national championships or at any other college races.  So our athletes have nothing to lose tomorrow.  They can just go out there and blast away and see what happens.  But it will be a valuable day for us nonetheless.  Even though the altitude is not that high, it is close to the FIS altitude limit and three minutes of hard skiing at this altitude will give our skiers with less altitude experience a little taste of thinner air.  And after a short holiday break and long travel logistics, it will provide a hard effort which can reintroduce the body to ski racing again.  I got a little too busy to bring the camera to the Soldier Hollow today, but here are a few more pictures of our (big) little house on the Utah prairie.
Our House

Our View

Our UAA Team Horses

Our Swimming Pool

Our Athletes