Like the Kansas City Chiefs later Sunday, Morgan Aldridge proved it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
Hours before the Chiefs would come from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to win the Super Bowl over the San Francisco 49ers, Aldridge’s title defense in the 16th Ski for Women at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna got off to a shaky start.
“3-2-1-Go and I put my pole in front of my ski and did a full face plant,” said Aldridge, a 2000 Soldotna High School graduate.
She popped right back up, though, and by the middle of the race she was in front and on her way to three Ski for Women titles in three tries.
Aldridge has been skiing once a week this winter, but friends from near and far carried her to victory.
“I told Mark (Beeson at Beemuns Bike and Ski Loft) that I needed miracle wax,” she said. “I haven’t been skiing enough, or waxing enough.”
More than the wax, it was the fitness Aldridge has built up through Zwift, a multiplayer cycling video game played with riders around the world, that made the comeback win possible. Aldridge has been riding 250 miles a week, and has accumulated 165,000 miles of climb since October.
That allowed her to survive a vigorous race between three at the front of the pack — Aldridge finished the 5K skate in 19 minutes, 18 seconds, while Amy Anderson was second at 19:33 and Libby Jensen was third at 19:39.
A 2001 Skyview High School graduate, Anderson and Aldridge raced together in high school. Aldridge noted Anderson was much better back then because the good skiers went to Skyview while Aldridge went to Soldotna to be in the band.
Anderson said the fact she and Aldridge are still racing 20 years later shows what is great about skiing.
“Skiing is a lifetime sport,” she said. “It’s a full-body workout and there’s a lot of amazing people out here.”
Anderson said she’d love for her four young boys to grow up skiing. One of those boys, Everett, gets credit for pushing Anderson past Jensen after a tough battle.
“My son told me I was going to get second, so I had to do it,” Anderson said.
Summer Foster won the 5K classic at 22:50, while Greta Showalter was second at 32:57 and Lara Griffin was third at 34:05. The men’s drag race went to Jack Laker in 19:01.
The Ski for Women drew 59 racers, including eight in the men’s drag race. Tsalteshi Trails Association treasurer Lauri Lingafelt, who organized the event with Amber Kraxberger, was happy with the turnout, especially considering a whipping wind that brought the windchill factor below zero.
Every year, the Ski for Women benefits a different cause. This year, money raised went to cots for an emergency cold-weather shelter that is being put together by area people and businesses.
“I love the women’s only events,” Aldridge said. “It’s a good reason to get out and ski and have some costume fun.”
The award for best costume went to Sara Bundy, RaChelle Gruenberg, Becky Hart and Heather Rinke, who all dressed as elaborate ravens. The victory marked a successful title defense for Bundy and Gruenberg, who won last year dressed as Valentines.
“We won it last year, and that was fun, so I thought, ‘Why don’t we win it every year?’” Bundy said. “I’m never going to win the ski race. We had our costumes planned out in September.”
Bundy said the group dressed as ravens because the birds are a common sight in winter. The quartet works as nurses at Central Peninsula Hospital, where ravens caused some consternation by dropping stones on cars earlier this winter. A plastic owl has since been posted to scare them away.
Ravens aren’t scared of the cold, and Hart said it’s no surprise none of the Ski for Women participants were, either.
“I think if you don’t get out in the cold, it’s hard to live here,” she said.
Patty Moran once again got the unofficial award for outfitting the most people in a costume. The last few years, Moran had outfitted 10 to 20 people in gnome costumes.
“I got tired of the gnomes, so I Googled ‘group costume,’” she said.
She came up with the idea of tiled costumes based on the app Words With Friends, which allows friends to compete in a word game on their smartphones. Moran teamed with Dana McDonald and spent all Friday constructing tiles that read “Ski for Women TTA.”
“It’s such a good cause and such a good way to start Super Bowl Sunday,” Moran said.
Ski for Women
Sunday at Tsalteshi Trails
5K skate — 1. Morgan Aldridge, 19 minutes, 18 seconds; 2. Amy Anderson, 19:33; 3. Libby Jensen, 19:39; 4. Sarah Foster, 20:37; 5. Becca Hitchcock, 20:49; 6. Melissa Smith, 22:33; 7. Patty Moran, 22:34; 8. Madison McDonald, 24:34; 9. Dana McDonald, 29:57; 10. Audrey McDonald, 30:15; 11. Ruby Davis, 31:50; 12. Laura Gerber, 33:04; 13. Kristin Mitchell, 34:05; 14. Michelle Quinton, 39:32; 15. Lucia Carson, 42:54; 16. Kristin Davis, 43:18.
5K classic — 1. Summer Foster, 22:50; 2. Greta Showalter, 32:57; 3. Lara Griffin, 34:05; 4. Jen Showalter, 34:25; 5. Shawna Cooper, 34:31; 6. Julie Laker, 34:59; 7. Patti Berkhahn, 37:54; 8. Alicia Driscoll, 38:18; 9. Sara Bundy, 38:32; 10. Larissa Arbelovsky, 38:50; 11. Julie Williams, 38:50; 12. Rachel Gilliland, 39:32; 13. RaChelle Gruenberg, 41:26; 14. Heather Rinke, 41:26; 15. Hanna Smuda, 41:26; 16. Becky Hart, 43:50; 17. Angie Nelson, 45:06; 18. Courtney Abel, 47:26; 19. Rebecca Wick, 48:07; 20. Amy Hogue, 48:25; 21. Cyndy Bybee, 48:25; 22. Reena Carson, 48:25; 23. Sara Mahood, 49:19; 24. Dawn Navarro, 49:25; 25. Marly Perschbacher, 49:34.
26. Cherie Taylor, 50:48; 27. Margaret Johnson, 50:48; 28. Marguerite McCord, 50:49; 29. Oliva Kobylarz, 51:12; 30. Stephanie Kobylarz, 51:13; 31. Gail Moore, 51:13; 32. Penny McClain, 52:03; 33. Laura Sievert, 52:03; 34. Pam Jones, 55:40; 35. Marsha Markstrom, 1:02:31; 36. Leonide McKay, 1:02:41.