Morgan Aldridge, Melissa Smith and Libby Jensen lead the Ski for Women on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Morgan Aldridge, Melissa Smith and Libby Jensen lead the Ski for Women on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Ski for Women sees 83 finishers

It’s not often a drop in the number of finishers at an event like the 18th Ski for Women counts as progress, but an exception may have to be made in this case.

Last year’s version came complete with a mitigation plan, multiple costumes dedicated to COVID-19 and a big increase in finishers because people were craving community social interaction of any kind.

While last year saw almost 90 finish, 83 finished Sunday at Tsalteshi Trails outside of Soldotna in an event that saw far less reminders of the pandemic.

Numbers are still trending upward at the event that saw 60 finishers in 2020, 66 in 2019 and 34 in subzero-cold 2018.

Sunday’s weather saw temperatures near freezing and mist flying through the air.

“I was a little nervous because of the misty weather this morning,” said Larissa Arbelovsky, the event coordinator and president elect of the Tsalteshi Trails Association. “A lot of people just wait until the same day before they decide whether to race or not.

“But I think it’s getting bigger and better. We had some really awesome raffle prizes this year. And I’m hoping maybe that helped draw some people out.”

Arbelovsky said the event originated as a way to bring awareness to domestic violence. Tsalteshi takes the opportunity to raise money for a women’s cause.

This year’s event raised money for an art scholarship for people impacted by fetal alcohol spectrum disorders set up in Vickie Tinker’s honor. Tinker is the late FASD program coordinator at Frontier Community Services, and also was an avid skier.

“We had so many women today say this is their first time ever doing it,” Arbelovsky said. “They had a great time. I’m like, ‘We do it every year!’”

The top 5-kilometer freestyle skiers were Libby Jensen finishing at 15 minutes, 20 seconds, Morgan Aldridge finishing at 15:21 and Melissa Smith finishing at 15:54.

Ariana Cannava was the top classic skier at 20:14, while Sue Seggerman was second at 25:12 and Julie Laker was third at 27:46.

Jensen geared up for a couple of big ski weekends to come by notching her first victory in the Ski for Women. Jensen edged out Aldridge, who won the event in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

“It’s definitely super fun, especially to see all the costumes, but I also really like that they give back to the community,” Jensen said. “I enjoy coming out here and seeing everybody getting together and having a good time.”

Jensen will do the Tour of Tsalteshi on Sunday, then will travel to Wisconsin to compete in the largest ski race in North America — the 50K American Birkebeiner on Feb. 26.

The best costume was won by Sara Bundy, RaChelle Gruenberg, Becky Hart and Heather Rinke for dressing up as the Golden Girls, the sitcom about Blanche Devereaux, Rose Nylund, Dorothy Zbornak and Sophia Petrillo.

Bundy and Gruenberg have now won costume awards at Ski for Women four times, while Hart and Rinke have joined them for three of those awards.

Gruenberg said the idea came from the death of Betty White, a star in the sitcom who died Dec. 31, 2021.

“We wanted to pay tribute to her and all the golden girls out there,” Gruenberg said.

Hart is doing travel nursing right now, so she was able to hit up thrift stores in Anchorage for the costume.

Gruenberg said the effort put into costumes is worth it.

“I really think it’s just because we’re all nurses, and we’re all women,” she said. “And it’s always a good cause to support the community.”

The four said they plan on repeating again next year.

“The planning starts now,” Rinke said.

The event also has a drag race available to men, with a donation optional.

Cole Watkins’ wife, Kailey, talked her husband into the event, mentioning after he agreed that he would have to dress in women’s attire. Cole did the drag race with a sleeveless top.

“I wanted to be water repellent and wind resistant,” he said. “I wasn’t cold at all.”

Ski for Women

Sunday at Tsalteshi Trails

5-kilometer skate: 1. Libby Jensen, 15:20; 2. Morgan Aldridge, 15:21; 3. Melissa Smith, 15:54; 4. Maranda Stone, 17:27; 5. Becca Hitchcock, 17:28; 6. Cory Route, 17:45; 7. Amy Brodersen, 18:41; 8. Kristin Davis, 19:18; 9. Danika Winslow, 20:15; 10. Elise Spofford, 22:20; 11. Audrey McDonald, 24:38; 12. Dana McDonald, 25:36; 13. D’Anna Ham, 26:28; 14. Kristin Mitchell, 26:29; 15. Marly Perschbacher, 28:00; 16. Kali Saxton-Shaw, 35:08; 17. Katie Stafford, 40:24.

5-kilometer classic: 1. Ariana Cannava, 20:14; 2. Sue Seggerman, 25:12; 3. Julie Laker, 27:46; 4. Ashley Lutto, 28:50; 5. Rachel Gilliland, 29:10; 6. Olga Hippchen, 29:34; 7. Sara Bundy, 30:15; 8. Hager El Serry, 31:14; 9. Madison McDonald, 31:14; 10. Erin Sansotta, 32:25; 11. Cynthia Bybee, 32:31; 12. RaChelle Gruenberg, 32:41; 13. Yennhi Tran, 32:54; 14. Gigi Banas, 33:06; 15. Laura Sievert, 33:06; 16. Shiloh Zichko, 33:53; 17. Becky Hart, 34:02; 18. Heather Rinke, 34:03; 19. Jennefer Stubblefield, 34:04; 20. Mindy Adams, 34:51; 21. Tara Ruffner, 35:40; 22. Cherie Taylor, 36:23; 23. Chelsea Wingard, 36:23; 24. Jaiden Bosick, 36:42; 25. Marina Bosick, 36:42.

26. Lauri Lingafelt, 37:15; 27. Carrie Wawrzyk, 37:15; 28. Patti Berkhahn, 37:40; 29. Sharon Kilbourn-Roesch, 37:40; 30. Taryn Lewis, 38:16; 31. Holly Lewis, 38:16; 32. Kristie Cotroneo, 38:27; 33. Shawn Haskin, 38:27; 34. Tracie Howard, 38:27; 35. Alyssa Stafford, 40:23; 36. Katrina Olson, 41:00; 37. Lia Benner, 41:00; 38. Deborah Hulsey, 41:04; 39. Gail Moore, 41:08; 40. Sara Mahood, 41:08; 41. Dawn Navarro, 42:05; 42. AnnMarie Rudstrom, 42:55; 43. Emily Knight, 42:59; 44. Katrina Cannava, 43:19; 45. Amy Frapp, 43:19; 46. Misty Klodt, 43:19; 47. Joanna Shaw, 43:19; 48. Oriana Tomlin, 43:19; 49. Rachel Grossl, 43:19; 50. Amelia Mueller, 44:09.

51. Meg Mueller, 44:09; 52. Marsha Markstrom, 44:48; 53. Leonide Mckay, 44:48; 54. Shannon Dosko, 44:54; 55. Dung Truong, 56:10; 56. Rebecca Wick, 56:10; 57. Kailey Watkins, 58:16; 58. Jeanne Duhan, 58:17; 59. Chelsea Balch, 58:18; 60. Rosy Church, 58:19.

5-kilometer drag race: 1. Alaska Hippchen, 26:27; 2. Ollie Dahl, 49:28; 3. Tor Dahl, 49:33; 4. C.O. Rudstrom, 49:34; 5. Cole Watkins, 58:17; 6. Quinn Cothran, 58:20

Heather Rinke, RaChelle Gruenberg, Sara Bundy and Becky Hart won best costume for “Golden Girls” at the Ski for Women on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Heather Rinke, RaChelle Gruenberg, Sara Bundy and Becky Hart won best costume for “Golden Girls” at the Ski for Women on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

D’Anna Ham rockets up a hill at the Ski for Women on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

D’Anna Ham rockets up a hill at the Ski for Women on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Katrina Olson leads a pack of skiers at the Ski for Women on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Katrina Olson leads a pack of skiers at the Ski for Women on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Chelsea Wingard and Cherie Taylor ski at the Ski for Women on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Chelsea Wingard and Cherie Taylor ski at the Ski for Women on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Katrina Olson leads a pack of skiers at the Ski for Women on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Katrina Olson leads a pack of skiers at the Ski for Women on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Photos by Jeff Helminiak / Peninsula Clarion 
Heather Rinke, RaChelle Gruenberg, Sara Bundy and Becky Hart won best costume for “Golden Girls” at the Ski for Women on Sunday at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna. Below, Katrina Olson leads a pack of skiers at the Ski for Women on Sunday.

Photos by Jeff Helminiak / Peninsula Clarion Heather Rinke, RaChelle Gruenberg, Sara Bundy and Becky Hart won best costume for “Golden Girls” at the Ski for Women on Sunday at Tsalteshi Trails just outside of Soldotna. Below, Katrina Olson leads a pack of skiers at the Ski for Women on Sunday.

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