Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Québécois Superstar!

I'm sure by now you know who our UAA Ski Team media darling is. It's Étienne, of course. He's been getting big air time in Québéc for years - all over the radio, television, and print media. His has been a household name in the eastern half of Canada for as far back as I can remember, and you can't hardly cross the border without hearing "Étienne this" and "Étienne that"...  My sister called me just the other day from her home in northern Vermont to ask me "Who is this Étienne character and why do I keep hearing about him every time I turn on the damn radio in my car?" I even heard a rumor that during the UAA Ski Team's recent afternoon of filming and interviews with our local news media in Anchorage, at least one journalist asked, "Can we keep interviewing Étienne for the rest of the afternoon, and then can we take him back to our TV studio?"

Like any big celebrity, Étienne would like some private time once in a while.  He'd like to escape the prying eyes of the press and paparazzi, even if just for a week or so.  That's why he traveled home to the Gaspésie during the holiday break to spend some quiet time with his family before our ski racing season really gets underway. But of course there's no escape from the media for a man like Étienne.  

Check out CBC's latest Étienne Richard Television Special here!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Friends and Family

A few days ago, UAA hosted the annual Friends and Family Relay race at Kincaid Park. It's one of my favorite races of the year because of its relaxed, Olde Tyme vibe and because it's a night race. And I've always loved night races.

I don't know who won.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Seal Goes Ow Ow Ow

A long time ago, I lived in Sweden for a short period of time. My teammates and I loved watching rally car racing on Eurosport when we lived there. We also loved watching Swedish MTV. As I recall, it looked a lot like this.

Monday, December 22, 2014


There are many reasons to like Bob Arnold. I'm not going to take the space in this blog to list all the reasons here - I don't have enough space.

Perhaps the most trivial reason to like Bob is he makes great videos of our races, and then he puts them into the series of tubes where we don't even have to pay to watch them! You'd be doing yourself a favor if you check them out for yourself at Bob Arnold's Videos.

There's already a video of yesterday's race, and it only happened yesterday! Be sure to look for the UAA skiers in the videos. They'll be the ones wearing the zoot suits that say "UAA".

Friday, December 19, 2014

Rhymin' and Glidin'

Hey Homies!

Just like everyone else, I love hip-hop. Who doesn't?!  And just like everyone else, I know that the epicenter of urban style and culture is Vermiglio, Trentino. That's why I go there every chance I get.

But I like skiing, too.

Sometimes in life we need to make tough decisions.  You can't always have your hip-hop and your skiing at the same time and same place. Sometimes these two things are mutually exclusive. But not at Passo del Tonale, just up the street from Vermiglio. If you go to Passo del Tonale, you're going to see and hear some things you've never experienced before. The words "artistic expression" will never mean quite the same thing to you again. Our friend Mario Roncador is a true master of urban style, grace, athleticism and freeform rap. Here's how Mario combines art and sport:

For Mario, this ain't nothin' but a thing.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Snow Machines

For skiers, perception of snow adequacy is relative. Growing up in New England, I remember a race where a kid from the Oregon (where they typically skied on ten feet or so of "base") asked "So what kind of base do you usually get around here?" We all laughed at this absurd question. Base?! We were happy if we just had some snow to scratch around on between clods of dirt and cow poop. "Firm snow conditions" and "frozen granular" are New England terms for "ice you can see through" - usually down to the granite underneath. And anything whiter or fluffier than that is considered a bonus.

When I first moved to Alaska 22 years ago, I remember going skiing at Kincaid Park on what I considered perfect, heavenly snow conditions and hearing locals describe it as not worth skiing on until conditions improved. Gradually, over time I'm afraid I've also adopted higher and higher standards for what I consider decent skiing here in town. A few weeks ago, after we'd been skiing on thin snow for a month, I was apologizing on behalf of all Alaskans to Kathrin Schratt for our meager snow conditions and she responded, "These conditions are fine. We never ski this early at home. I think the skiing's good here." It made me remember when I first moved here and had the same perspective. It made me want to recapture it. And this year it's not so hard to do; all you need to do is look around the interwebs to see that we've got it pretty good here. 

I was reading Viktor Brannmark's blog recently where he was describing a good race course on perfect snow conditions in northern Sweden. Then I looked at the photos and saw good man-made snow on the 3km race course loop.  It was pretty brown everywhere else. Then I read a report from an old friend from my old Lillehammer Skiklub, reporting that they were having lots of good races in town because all the races from around southcentral Norway were being moved to Lillehammer's Olympic Stadium because it was the only snow around. And I've followed Lukas Ebner's travels around Europe looking for snow to train and race on. I've seen that it was a lack of snow that cancelled the La Clusaz World Cup races. And here in the USA, they held a nordic combined continental cup race on the tubing hill last weekend because it was the only place in Utah that had some snow. 

It all made me feel pretty good about the conditions at Kincaid this morning, where we skied all over the trail system, and finished off the workout with a lap around the snowmaking loop. 

Kathi and Pati
Kathi and Pati
Kathi and Pati
Kathi and Pati
Kathi and Pati
Kathi and Pati (and Brandon)
Kathi and Pati
Kathi and Pati

Who do you think?

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Photo Essay

After a week's worth of "intensity" training and a race yesterday, Coach Andrew thought the team might find a little change of scenery refreshing, so we joined forces with the UAA alpiners to go backcountry skiing today at the UAA Ski Team's secret backcountry skiing spot. After seeing the weather report, I'll admit that I thought it was unlikely that we'd even put skis on our feet because it was pouring rain near sea level with heavy snow up high. I figured we'd have a washout / avalanche situation. But I'm usually game for a nice ride in the team van, so I was happy to come along.

Steady rain at the parking lot at 1,000 feet elevation. Many times I've seen this sign completely buried under snow. Not today.
The biggest challenges of the day involved boot packing up ice and slush over rock. 
And bushwhacking.
But we did reach snow eventually. By the way, those aren't ski tracks in the snow; they're rain runnels. This stuff was heavy!
Things looked better the higher we climbed...
And better...
Removing the climbing skins.
The heavy new snow provided soft landings for Davis and me.
The Black Knight in his natural habitat.
Smiles all around.
The heavy wet snow kept us off the steeps and kept the speed low. But Kathi wasn't afraid to huck some major air off this rollover in the trees.
UAA skiers don't walk if they can ski instead.
But sometimes walking is unavoidable.

No avalanches.  No drownings. A successful outing.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

This n' That

A few weeks ago, Lukas told me that he was flying off to the Black Forest to do some qualifying races and try to ski for Germany in some OPA Cup races in the Alps. Next thing I know, Viktor tells me that Lucky has shown up on his doorstep in Sweden with no bags, no luggage, no skis, no nothing, but wants to get into some races in Sweden and hang out with Viktor for a while. Then, this evening, I was driving across town and I saw this sign beside the road:

So I guess this means Lucky's headed back to China. This isn't Lukas' first time ski racing in China, but it is his first time doing it during the winter:
You don't have to look too closely to see that Lucky's wearing a Swedish jacket.  What would Angela Merkel think of this?
Considering the amount of time this man spends in Asia, I'm going to be pretty disappointed if I hear that he's not fluent in Mandarin by the end of this trip.

Meanwhile, we still don't have much snow in Anchorage, but it seems we're still better off than most of Scandinavia, most of Central Europe, and the southern portion of the USA. Today we had a guest at our workout at the Hillside trails. Dominik Notz came out skiing with us this morning. You may recognize the name.  His brother Florian is a rising star on the German national ski team. His dad Dieter wasn't a bad skier, either.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Rubbin' is Racin'

It's been a pretty dry winter so far in Anchorage and there's not much snow in town, but there's enough for ski racing and that's what we did today at Kincaid Park.
Kathi leading the women's race.

The tag zone - Kathi to Pati


UAA Alpine skiers Bella and Marion came out to cheer on the Nordic skiers.

Etienne (and Coach Andrew)



Assistant Coach Sara won the mixed relay division with her teammate Mario.

Alex (in the background, not the foreground)



Chaos at Kincaid - Smiley and Alex negotiating traffic on the right. John Farr is in the background (in black) getting back up after trying to squeeze past Mark Iverson (in orange) on the left. That attempt did not succeed.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Just a quick note...

In case you're keeping a running tally, Lucky put another ski pole to death this evening.  By my count, that brings his lifetime total to 1,753 pole shafts (mostly Swix, with a few One-Ways in the mix). Though Lukas is in Sweden, his luggage is still somewhere in France, so he needed to borrow some equipment from Viktor.  I'm assuming Viktor made a heads-up play and grabbed those poles off his neighbor's porch as they loaded the car to drive over to Kanis...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Change of Plans

When Lucky left here last week, I thought he had a pretty solid plan. He was headed to central Europe to ski in some important German qualifying races on December 6 and 7 (that's this weekend). I think he told me there wasn't much snow in Germany, so he would probably start with some training in the Alps somewhere.

Next thing I know, Lucky is headed to Sweden! To Älvsbyn in Norrbotten. There's snow there, there's ski racing there... why not?  And don't we know someone who lives in Älvsbyn?

Have you ever wanted to learn Swedish, but just never found a good enough reason to do so?  Maybe you didn't think you'd use it enough to make all that studying worthwhile?  Well, here's your reason to learn Swedish

(There will be a quiz later.  For extra credit, you can read this.)

Training Camp

The UAA Nordic Team spent most of last week at their secret Thanksgiving training camp, high in the Alaska mountains.  I can tell you neither where they were nor the details of any of their workouts, but they trained a lot.  Here are some spy photos the UAA Nordic Team Blog was able to obtain:

Clem and Mario
Clem, Mackenzie, Mario
Mackenzie, Kathi, and Andrew
Clem, apparently trying to figure out how to operate his camera.


All the best photos were taken by Clement. The others were taken by someone else.  Thanks, Clem!