Monday, November 24, 2014

"P" is for Portage

Every year, UAA and UAF have a ski-racing showdown.  And every year, the grudge match happens before Thanksgiving. It's called the Alaska Cup. It's Alaska's college ski racing championship, and it takes place long before any other ski races of any consequence. Before most skiers have even done an early-season time trial. Before most skiers have even strapped on their skis for the first on-snow training session of the season. Why so early?  Because it's a good excuse for both teams to get in an early-season race.  And because the rest of the season is too busy to cram in another race.

Fairbanks generally has a significant advantage when it comes to the Alaska Cup. The UAF ski team always gets on snow far earlier than everyone else. Often, their first local skiing workouts happen in September. By the time Alaska Cup weekend rolls around, UAA has typically scratched around on local snow a few times and has made a few weekend trips to Hatcher Pass, while UAF has had daily skiing for six weeks, more or less. And the results bear out the climate differences.  Over the past 11 years, UAF has won the Alaska Cup seven times.  UAA won it twice, and there was a tie in there somewhere.

This year, we went to UAF to race on their home course, and we haven't had much snow around here lately. So I have to admit I wasn't too optimistic about our chances this year. Nevertheless, we managed to bring home the Alaska Cup. It was our third win in eleven years. I wasn't there myself, though I did hear some rumors about how the races played out.  I heard that Mackenzie skied a tactically conservative and smart race, saving enough to blast through the last 200 meters to win the women's race.  I heard that after UAF's Hallvard Evjestad got away from the pack right from the starting gun, Clement managed to chase him down midway through the race.  Though he got a little pooped out on climb the back to the stadium, he hung on for second place in the college race (third overall). I heard that although Manon had a banged-up shoulder that she'd suffered in a commuter-bike accident a couple days earlier, she wanted to race real bad, and put on a bib for the relay, which enabled her teammate Pati to race with her as UAA's #2 relay team. Etienne texted me during the weekend and told me that spirits are high and the team is feeling good and looking forward to the racing season.

I stole this picture from the UAA Ski Team facebook page, in case you're wondering.
Here are the relevant news links:

You'd better check out all the links, or you'll fall behind.  It's early in the season.  Don't fall behind.

I stole this picture from Viktor's blog, in case you're wondering.
See anything unusual in this photo?
Me neither.  Everything seems pretty normal here.  Here's our friend Viktor on Swedish TV at the 2.2km mark in the opening race of the year, racing with most of the best Swedes in a 15k race in Bruksvallarna. He's winning the race. No surprises there. (Brannmark is Swedish for "scorched earth", which I've always found very appropriate.) That Lindstrom guy who's 3.5 seconds behind Viktor?  He went on to win the race. But here's the new and exciting thing we've all been looking forward to:  Viktor managed to keep skiing fast all the way to the finish.  He finished 17th against a really tough field.  So Viktor continues to make progress toward his ultimate goal of being a regular on the World Cup circuit for the Swedish team. Congratulations on a promising start to the season, Viktor! Your old teammates and coaches are cheering for you here in Alaska!

Meanwhile, since there's not much snow around here, D and I went skating around the Lynx Lake Canoe Trail.  Nothing too exciting, but I'm going to post some photos anyway.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Mackenzie's First Win Since...


The word on the street is that after Mackenzie told Andrew, after winning Saturday's season opener that she didn't know when she'd last won a ski race.  While that may be true, she did travel to Germany during the summer and set a new course record in a half-marathon.

Here's what the Fairbanks News-Miner had to say about Alaska's first race of the season:  LINK

Friday, November 21, 2014

Season Opener

...So anyway, I was riding my bicycle home from the Anchorage International Airport late last night, as often do, and I was thinking about how the roads and bike paths were very icy and I hadn't bothered to put my studded winter tires on my bike yet.  I reminded myself to ride carefully. As I rode pretty fast through an intersection, I diverted my attention from the icy asphalt for a moment so I could look around and make sure there was no traffic coming, and that's when my front wheel went out. I crashed pretty hard on my shoulder, and then I slid quite a ways down the street until I finally hit the curb and came to a stop. My bike was totally fine, I was totally fine, and mostly I was worried that someone had seen me sliding down the road on my ass and that made me kind of embarrassed.  But there was nobody in sight so that wasn't an issue. So far, so good.

When I arrived home, I got a call from Andrew. Manon had crashed her bike on the ice last night, too. Landed on her shoulder, just like me. She was pretty banged up. She would see the doctor in the morning for an x-ray of her shoulder. The prognosis was negative.

24 hours later, things are looking a little more optimistic. No broken shoulder for Manon. No major injuries. But no ski racing this weekend, either. Ski training in Fairbanks, yes. Racing, no. She's bummed.

The ski racing season kicks off for UAA tomorrow in Fairbanks with our annual Alaska Cup race against UAF. Meanwhile, in Sweden, the season started earlier today in Bruksvallarna, where our old pal Viktor finished 2:08 behind the winner (Johan Olsson) in a 10k individual start race.

That's all I have for you today. Usually, I'd include a couple relevant photos with the blog post but since I don't have any humiliating pictures of Manon or myself crashing our bicycles, I'll post a picture of this cat who is a DJ. Because the idea of going to a party and finding out that the DJ is a cat makes me laugh even more than the thought of people crashing their bicycles.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Trees

For the past week, all my climbs have been done on a chairlift. On the other hand, those chairlift rides were done at 11,500 feet above sea level.

Today was my first workout with the nordic team in a couple weeks. Rollerski intervals were on the program. Would my recent lack of training make it impossible to keep up? Or would my time spent at altitude give me a boost at sea level?
Getting ready
Based on how this workout went, I think the altitude training served me well, even if it was on a chairlift.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Bad TV

I have a GoPro camera now, but I don't really know how to use it yet. And I don't know how to edit movies either.  I made one, but it's awful.  I don't think you should watch it. But I'll post it here anyway because it's not as if this blog has high standards anyway; look at all the other junk I put on here. One more crappy video on the internet probably isn't going to harm western culture any more than the reality TV and singing contests are already doing.

The best clips in this video were taken by James and Bucky. Thanks for letting me use it, James!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Snow Day

Today was our last day of alpine training camp in Colorado. The Swiss and Austrians showed up, but we are heading back to Alaska tomorrow.

The Front Range Ski Club has a pretty sweet set up, with a training room right beside their Echo ski runs.
GS training at Echo.  Marion.
Slalom this morning at Loveland Basin.  Martins.
Here's a video for you: 

Sparky. Can you see him down there?
Cat, Anna, and Marion.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Powder Chowder

It's been snowing non-stop here at the alpine team's Colorado training camp. It breaks my heart every morning when we push all that fresh, delicious powder snow off to the sides to expose the hard man-made surface underneath that's better for slalom skiing. 

No, it's not a "Chinese Slalom". They're slipping the slalom course.
Here's how Bucky knocks down the powder berms that form outside the slalom rut.  He slides into them like he's sliding into second base.
Guess who.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Lucky In the News

If you are a big Lukas Ebner fan like I am, you're definitely going to want to read this article on the Faster Skier website.

The 2013 NCAA National Championships team - three skiers who didn't call it quits after UAA: Viktor Brannmark is currently trying to make the Swedish National Team, Lukas Ebner is giving it a go in Europe this winter, and Lasse Moelgaard-Nielsen raced some World Cups and came very close to qualifying for the Olympics last winter.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Scenes From Colorado

Today was the first day of bashing plastic this season for the alpiners.  I felt honored to be here to witness it.
Leaving the team house this morning. It was a little blustery.


I'd been begging Sparky to let me take a slalom run all day, and I guess he got tired of my nagging because he finally relented and let me take a quick break from videoing so I could get a little transfer. Here's my run**:
(** Of course this wasn't me taking this slalom run. This was James Schindler.)


It's getting to be that time of the year again - time to give thanks.  Coming straight to this training camp off my motorcycle, I didn't get a chance to go home and get my alpine ski stuff.  Several people have come through for me so that I can be out there on the hill this week, and I'd like to thank them now:

Thank you Sparky for bringing me some skis to ski on.
Thank you Sean for tuning my skis; they are truly World Cup ready now!
Thank you Bella for letting me use your extra ski poles.

And thank you Corey Staab for the inspiration:

Monday, November 10, 2014

Drill Baby Drill!

I'm spending the week in Colorado to see what I can learn from UAA's alpine skiers, and it's obvious after day three of training camp that I have a lot to learn! Fortunately, I have seventeen coaches here, so I think things are progressing well.

It's been interesting to see the similarities between the nordic and alpine training sessions, as well as the differences.  And there are plenty of both. 

Though we're spending the week far away from Alaska, we are not completely outside Alaska's influence.  A huge Bering Sea storm blew across Alaska over the weekend, wiping out the snow around Anchorage and dramatically shifting the course of the jet stream, sending Hawaii's weather to Alaska, and Alaska's weather down here to us in Colorado.
Here's Curtis the Legend skiing "The Legend" in lo-vis storm conditions today.
For the most part, it's been non-stop on-ski drills this week, though Sparky also found time to show the team a couple new dance moves.
Working on the fundamentals.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Snakes and Spiders

I was minding my own business, camping and riding my motorcycle across the desert mountains of Arizona and working my way toward Encinitas, California for some surfing with friends when I got an urgent call from the UAA Ski Team Blog’s home office in Anchorage.  It seems the UAA Alpine Team was headed to Colorado for an on-snow training camp, and we didn't have any interns available to cover the story for the blog. And just like that, I was ordered to get myself off the motorcycle and straight to the nearest airport to catch the first flight to Denver, where I will spend the next week embedded with the UAA Alpine Team to cover all the ins and outs of their training camp for you, our faithful reader.

And that is how I came to be here, on the top of the Las Vegas International Airport’s parking garage, writing this message to you as I wait for my flight to Denver.

The spiders are on the march. (read more here)

There is no other kind of camping as comfortable as desert camping.