(...with some great photos by Krista Rader)
It is true, skiers are made in the off-season. As spring draws to a close we are well into our new training year, and as the summer months roll by, load increases. I train hard all summer, spending four separate weeks on the Eagle Glacier logging many on-snow hours, and systematically go through periods of high intensity and others of high volume.
Now it is decidedly fall here in Alaska, the midnight sun no longer graces us with its presence. I wake up to darkness at 6:30 AM, and there’s a nip in the morning air when I begin training. And while many Alaskans bemoan the waning daylight, the overcast sky, and the impending winter weather, I relish this time of year. The tundra-covered mountain slopes surrounding the Anchorage bowl are blanketed in shades of red, yellow, and orange. But unlike other areas of the country, where fall is a gradual transition, a full season in length, this time of year in the North is a quick snapshot. The vibrant colors that decorate the mountains will soon elude us, covered by newly fallen termination dust, and that’s when I know that skiing is not far away…
But before winter pokes its head around the corner and the first snow falls in the mountains I’ve made it my goal to escape into them. I’ve trained harder this spring and summer than any other year of my life. Both my body and mind are ready for the season to begin, but only after I get one last moment in the mountains. It’s something about this time of year that makes me yearn for a brief adventure to the middle of nowhere.
A few times each summer my teammates and I get a week “off” from organized training. The instructions are for alternative types of activity, unstructured training, and luckily for me, this week is fast approaching. This is my chance to head north towards my hometown where I can ascend into the Talkeetna Mountains. Here, in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, is my childhood “playground” complete with peaks, glaciers, tundra, rivers, and glacial lakes. I first spent time her as a young child, backpacking to the Bomber, Mint and Snowbird Glaciers with my dad. We stayed in the public huts, built by volunteers, hiking through open valleys, fording glacial streams, crossing snowfields, picking wild berries, and napping periodically on moss-covered knolls. From this point on, I’ve made it my goal to go back into the Talkeetnas every year. The scenery never gets old, as the area is comfortingly familiar. Next week I hope to find myself there, lost in glowing tundra fields, surrounded by craggy unclimbed peaks. This is training too, a different sort of training, and just the kind of transition I need from fall to winter.
A B-29 bomber crashed on a glacier, now called the Bomber Glacier, on November 17, 1957. The wreckage from the plane remains strewn all over the glacier, and after hiking up and over a pass you can traverse across the rim of the glacier and down to the crash site.
The Author: Taz Mannix.
All Photos by: Krista Rader
For more on Taz and the APU team please visit: http://nordic.alaskapacific.edu/