A howling wind, blowing snow and freezing temperatures couldn’t knock the grin off Isaac Lammers’ face on Sunday, Oct. 30.
“It’s just great being back on snow,” said Lammers, a Chugiak High School senior who was one of a couple dozen local skiers who took part in a Nordic ski camp over the weekend put on by Alaska Nordic Racing (ANR) at Hatcher Pass.
Lammers, who skis competitively for both the Chugiak-based club and his high school team, said he’s been skiing at the popular early-winter destination since the snow started to fly two weeks ago.
“At first it’s a little different getting off skate skis,” he said. “But by now you’re pretty used to it.”
Skiers have been hitting the pass in droves ever since grooming began in mid-October. Members of the ANR team who participated in the three-day camp said conditions were already at mid-winter levels.
“It was a blast,” said Lammers, who spent the final part of the afternoon racing off against his fellow team members for some speed work around the Independence Mine. “Even if it was cold, it was so much fun.”
Mikey Evans, an ANR coach who also coaches at Chugiak, said the fact that Hatcher Pass is already in mid-season form is a testament to the hard work put in by groups like the Mat-Su Nordic Ski Club, whose workhorse Strabel family has been grooming the trails nearly every day.
“That’s critical,” Evans said. “Without the support of the clubs, this stuff could never happen.”
Area ski clubs like the Mat-Su Nordic Ski Club and Eagle River Nordic Ski Club are responsible for grooming both the trails in the pass and other maintained trails closer to sea level, like those at Beach Lake and Mirror Lake in Chugiak and Eagle River High School. Evans said that work could not be possible without the hard work of volunteers like the Strabels and the general public’s financial support through the purchase of trail pins.
“That’s critical,” he said. “Without the clubs’ support, this stuff could not happen.”
The ANR team wasn’t the only group of competitive skiers getting some work in Sunday. Members of rival teams were also getting in some work, but Evans said all the skiers are essentially members of one big family and the early-season training is, in effect, a reunion.
“It’s like belonging to the biggest club in Alaska,” he said.
Lammers said skiers who have the ability to utilize Hatcher Pass this early in the winter have a big leg up on some of their rivals both in Alaska and nationwide.
“It gives you an advantage over anyone who’s not skiing right now,” he said.
And having so many good skiers gathered together this time of year, he said, also allows everyone too see who’s been working over the summer — and who hasn’t.
“You get to scope out the competition,” he said.
Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or [email protected]