Change of geography

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 08:14:00 01/29/15

In Reply to: Thanks for sharing the adventures... posted by Rob (Hiker)


My Nordic skiing in Alaska has been confined primarily to the places with formal (and usually groomed) trails and elaborate lighting systems. I know folks who engage in elaborate backcountry ski adventures up here, but they tend to be decades younger than me. There's a lot more avalanche danger around here, and we lose some of them every winter to that hazard. Yellowstone is unique among Nordic skiing environments, in that it offers a rare combination of relatively gentle terrain for the most part, dry, forgiving snow, low humidity, which mitigates some of the impact of colder weather, and very exotic attractions, like an abundance and diversity of critters, and over 10,000 hydrothermal features. I have experienced temperatures warm enough to be out in shirt sleeves in February in Yellowstone. That is a rare phenomenon in places like Alaska. Knowing the crazy places I went skiing in the Colorado Rockies at a younger age, I'm sure if I lived in Alaska back then, I would have been out taking chances, dodging avalanches and the occasional ill-tempered moose.

I hate to say it, but having groomed trails with the type of lighting they deploy in the parks around here has kind of spoiled me. I remember seeing that type of set-up in the Twin Cities, when I used to fly in their on business. I wondered what the experience would be like, but thought it would be an excellent recreational and fitness opportunity for urbanites and suburbanites. Now I know. It's no accident that Alaska, particularly Alaska Pacific University, is so well-represented on the U.S. Nordic Ski Team. Of course, this winter has been frustrating until lately, with the lack of snow and unseasonal warm temps. I was up in Wasilla last week, and was surprised to see bare ground everywhere. We have a number of friends who are mushers, and they are tearing their hair out. Their dogs live to pull a sled, and they can get borderline psychotic if their owners/handlers don't give them some sort of opportunity. One musher was telling me about a friend trying to have his dogs pull a snowmachine on a frozen lake. It sounded like a bizarre comedy, and was quickly abandoned. Thankfully, the snow finally arrived!!


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