July 24, 2011

Girls Camp

The first week of Girls Camp is coming to a close. We have completed a week of dryland and are enjoying a nice day off before we fly to the Eagle glacier for some skiing! It was awesome having a big group here. We did all our afternoon workouts together as well so the Alaskans took us to some new trails and I was able to check out some cool places in the comfort of a group large enough to scare off any bears or moose! Kikkan also surprised us with sweatshirts and named us the North American Training Alliance and created a cool logo that combined a star for the USA and a maple leaf for the Canadians. Here is a glimpse of some of our workouts:

Lots of bright colors in the groups, Thanks Rudy Project for all the support and keeping us safe!

The North American Training Alliance!

10 minute level 3 intervals, don't get in our way!

Nothing compares to following one of the best in the world for 1 hour into a strong headwind, thanks for pulling me along Kikkan.

We did a cool double pole session along the coast, it had some epic views and a gnarly headwind, on the way back....

Check back for a report on the glacier and the going ons in Park City where I will head to have some fun with my parents during my recovery week.

July 19, 2011


The U.S. Women's Team launched a video challenge this summer in which girls teams were supposed to make a 3 minute video of their summer training. The U.S. team arrived in Anchorage this past weekend to start our joint APU/U.S. Team camp and as a result we have gotten to view some of the videos. There were over 20 girls teams that entered! I am very pleasantly surprised by the number of girls training groups out there and that they were all so enthusiastic about showcasing their hard work. Anyway, take a look at our video.

So far, girls camp has been really fun. I am so psyched to have my friends and old teammates around. There has been a good deal of laughing and gossiping! As APU is showcasing Alaska, we have been going on some new trails which, as the newbie, I have really enjoyed, not to mention, the power in numbers has made me much less scared of all the deadly wildlife around. Today on our rollerski, we probably passed about 20 piles of bear scat, but no bears. Turns out, 30 girls on rollerskis wearing fluorescent clothes seems to be enough to scare all the bears away and maybe a few tourists too.

July 12, 2011

My First Glacier Camp!

Have you ever imagined yourself being helicoptered up to a remote building full of beds and food, sitting on top of a glacier with the possibility of skiing on groomed trails in the middle of summer? I sure never did, but once I heard of the possibility, moving to Alaska didn't seem half as bad. I have spent much of the past two years with injuries all of which where caused by non-skiing activities. With this in mind, spending one week each month on snow, I thought I might stand a chance of training a lot without getting injured. This was enough to convince me to move to what I still view as the middle of nowhere, Alaska. I have just returned from my first week on the Glacier and I think it was worth the journey to Alaska.

Skiers have sought on snow summer training on the Eagle Glacier for many years now. The military, biathletes, and the US Ski team have all had part in the project over the past 30 years or so. APU was fortunate enough to take over in the more recent history and have spent many weeks each summer training hard and making various repairs to the place.

The Eagle Glacier sits high in the mountains above the town of Girdwood, home to Alyeska Resort and lies about 35 miles south of Anchorage. ()

The "lodge" that we stay in is more of a metal box as the winter weather is exceedingly harsh up there. This makes maintenance an endless task so there are always projects going on around the glacier led by our coach, wax tech, and various other helpers. However, it still provides a great hideout for training. There is a very adequate kitchen with two stoves, giant refrigerator, and huge pantry to make sure us hungry skiers are always well fed. Bunk rooms make up the sleeping arrangements and there is a living room to socialize and watch movies and a small space with a few weights to keep up on our strength training over the week. The goal of the week is always to ski as much as possible. For me, as a newbie, this meant trying to get 4 hours of skiing in a day.
The pond that we rely on for water supply

A typical day meant waking up at 6 to get skiing by 7 in hopes that the snow was a little firmer, skiing for 2-3 hours, eating, napping, skiing for a second time, doing some strength training, eating dinner, watching video to work on technique, and going to bed. There is not much else going on up there so it is a great way to focus solely on skiing. That said, we only spend a week at a time up there because not only is it exhausting to train that much, it is close quarters and we wouldn't want to destroy any team bonding that we have done over the week.

The groomed trail and a sunny day!

There is about a 7km loop to ski on that our wax tech grooms twice a day for us. The variable part of the camp is the weather. Weather in Alaska in unpredictable as is, then you throw in being on top of a mountain and things get interesting. I apparently lucked out as this week we had a few sunny days and a fews days in which we were in a cloud, but only one rain storm. The sunny days are to die for. The views are incredible and it is a surreal thing to be skiing in the middle of summer on top of a glacier, it never got old. Being in a cloud was interesting as well. It provided some distortion as I would loose track of where I was on the course and suddenly the hills seemed shorter and the track less monotonous, but the downhills became a little tricky as you couldn't see more than one foot in front of you. We had very warm weather which was nice for training, but meant that the snow never froze so the skiing was very mushy and challenging making for some extra tired legs.

Me and some of my new teammates

I had a successful camp, training the most I ever have in 1 week! My knee didn't cause me any trouble, only blisters got in my way as the snow is so wet it is hard to keep your feet dry! I spent a great deal of time working on technique as every coach as different ways of explaining things and different philosophies on the best ways ski. I feel like I have already become a better skier and am looking forward to the next camp.

The most exciting part was our exit. Most people hike off the glacier to save some money instead of taking the helicopter down. However, a group of us with nagging injuries were instructed to take the lift down. We were planning to leave this morning but a storm was predicted to move in so we were unsure of our departure time. We went out for our last training session yesterday when our coach came ripping down on the snowmobile to tell us that the helicopter would be arriving in 30 minutes. However, the storm had already hit as rain was falling and the wind was howling so we scrambled back up to the building to pack our things. Because the storm had moved in, the helicopter wasn't able to get to the building so our coach got a call saying it was landing down glacier. Every minute that the heli runs, gas is burning and so is our wallet so we scurried around in the storm loading a sled and attaching it to the snowmobile before piling on and heading into the fog. We were driving very fast looking for the heli and trying to avoid falling into a crevasse, it was nothing short of a great hollywood scene. I spotted the helicopter through the fog and our coach was able to get us loaded in. We took off and the wind was so strong we were bouncing all over the place. We had to take a longer route back to Girdwood to avoid flying over high peaks so we got a scenic trip, but I was shaking with nerves the whole way. We were flying so close to the ridges trying to stay protected from the wind and we certainly got our money's worth on this ride, however, I was very thankful to land safely on the air strip.
APU just bought a new Pisten Bully (grooming machine) for the glacier. Getting thing up there is tricky however. Getting the machine up there required it to be broken into pieces and the hiring of a special helicopter that could carry the pieces. It was an exciting day for all when the helicopter delivered the pieces. This is the cab being brought up one afternoon.

After spending a week surrounded by rock and snow, everything seemed very green in town and I keep catching myself forgetting to flush the toilet as we have to conserve water on the glacier we must follow the mantra "if it's pee, let it be, if it's poo flush it through." But it is very nice to have a few days of rest and recovery. We ran into a teammate grabbing some dinner who was not on the glacier who had been charged by a brown bear that day and after pulling into our driveway we were greeted by 2 moose, reminding me again of all my fears here and that Alaska is a wild place. Back to reality in Anchorage!

At the end of this week, the US Womens Team is arriving for a week of dryland training and then another week on the glacier. A few of my Dartmouth Teammates will be joining and I could not be more excited to have some friends coming to visit!

You can always click on any picture to enlarge it!

July 5, 2011

The 4th of July, AK Style

As indicated by the moose charges and other training adventures, AK is crazy.

It is light here all night making it easy to stay up and late, wake up early and go, go, go. I celebrated my Dartmouth teammates 21st birthday to start the weekend off. Then we headed south to the town of Seward. Seward is a small port town on the coast in which most people in Alaska travel to over the weekend of the 4th. It is quite the scene. People camp bumper to bumper all over the town. People come from all over Alaska so the people watching was outstanding! A bunch of skiers from UAA, UAF, and APU all crammed into a campsite and celebrated the holiday over a campfire and watched the fireworks over the bay. Fireworks in AK are not all that spectacular as you can hardly see them with the sun still up. It was still great to hang out on the beach with friends.

The day of the 4th is marked by the Mount Marathon race. This is the craziest race I have ever witnessed and means the world to many Alaskans. Mount Marathon is a jagged peak rising out of the town of Seward. There is no established trail up it so the racers spend years studying the best routes up and down the mountain. It is about 3 miles from town, up the mountain, and back down again and about 3000 vertical feet. Needless to say, it is steep and there is no break. The first obstacle going up is a cliff in which there are many routes and lots of scrambling, then the trail become slick dirt that is very difficult to get traction on. Lastly the peak rises above treeline and loose gravel provides a tricky finishing ascent. On the way down people get out of control, jumping of cliffs and waterfalls and sliding down scree fields in hope of passing those more reserved descenders. Racers were beat up by the time they got to the bottom with many taking serious diggers. This race is my worst nightmare and yet people spend years trying to get a spot in the race through the lottery system they have established. There were spots selling for $2000.00 the night before the race. Once you race and perform well your spot is reserved year after year until you fail to race, then your spot is put back into the lottery. It is a BIG deal.
Just over the half way point of the race looking down into the town of Seward. This picture fails to show how very steep this mountain is.

The cliffs at the bottom that require some tricky maneuvering and cause those with tired legs some big falls.

After the race, my friend and teammate from Dartmouth, Eric headed up to the Exit Glacier and Harting Ice Field to go for a hike. It was a really astounding place. The glacier was quite large, but the ice field was enormous. It's a 3,000 ft valley filled with ice and it extends around 100 square miles. It was quite remarkable. The weather cleared up and the sun came out up top so we basked in the for some time up top before heading down and back to town.
Eric and I approaching the view into the ice field

The Harting Ice Field, about 3,000 feet deep and 100 sq. miles of ice!
Eric giving a little bit of scale to the ice field.

Anchorage is a city and not that spectacular but once you leave, everything is just beautiful. It was great to see the amazing things Alaska has and to get out of the city. I hope to do some more adventuring in the coming weekends. Tomorrow, I head to my first glacier camp so I will get to ski hours upon hours all week. I am hoping for nice weather and a cooperating knee.


After an exhausting senior week and graduation, I was able to spend 2 days relaxing on the Cape and 2 days at home unpacking and repacking before I headed north to Alaska. After having raced here 3 times over the past few years, I vowed never to return to this state. Unfortunately for me, there are a lot of cross country skiers in Alaska and some very good ones at that and after experiencing the power of a team at Dartmouth, I knew I wanted to ski for a club that had a big and talented team. This ultimately lead me to choosing to move to Anchorage and start skiing for the Alaska Pacific University Ski Team. This is not the typical college program that I experienced at Dartmouth. The school is tiny and does not have any NCAA sports. The ski team is the only team here and is basically a club team that is supported by the university so we do not have to succumb to all the NCAA rules and regulations about age, amateur status and the like. The team is quite large and spans a great age range and abilities, but for the most part, it is a very elite team with incredibly talented skiers. I am living in a house on campus with 3 other teammates and I will be taking masters classes in hopes of getting a masters in education while pursuing racing full time.

So far Alaska has provided me all kinds of firsts and new experiences. To start with, Anchorage is the biggest city I have ever lived in and so even though its small by most peoples standards, it feels quite large to me. I have never carried a house key with me in my life or locked a door so I have had to adjust to the little things like that as well as things like not going places alone at night and those general urban area safety rules. However, Anchorage is still in Alaska and it is crawling with moose and bears, both of which I am terrified of. In my first week here, I was charged my 2 moose and watched a teammate get stomped by one and have had to turn around numerous times to avoid such encounters. All my teammates have promised that these were strange and unusual incidents and that most moose just keep munching the trees while you ski by. I am skeptical, but hope to get used to their presence as I have yet to train alone solely out of fear of the large creatures.

As I am now foremost a ski racer and secondly a graduate student, I will be updating this blog at a much more frequent rate so please check back weekly to read about my adventures in AK. Additionally, I am free from the NCAA and am hoping to make it as a "professional" skier so any and all forms of support are graciously welcomed. Don't hesitate to email me with comments or questions.

My beloved and much missed Dartmouth Teammates and Best Friends