The Ski for Women had powder for everyone.
Saturday evening, Tsalteshi Trails groomers Bill Holt and Jordan Chilson had the five-kilometer course in immaculate condition for Sunday’s 15th version of the event.
But Mother Nature had other ideas.
From 4 to 6 inches fell on the trails overnight and magical world of snow persisted as the 67 skiers completed the 11 a.m. race.
Not that anyone was complaining.
“We’re so lucky,” said Patty Moran, who was responsible for outfitting 18 of the skiers in gnome costumes. “It was so beautiful.”
Lauri Lingafelt, the treasurer of the Tsalteshi Trails Association, gave credit to Holt, Chilson, Dan Skipwith and Elizabeth Earl for making sure the course was ready for the event.
Morgan Aldridge won for the second straight year, crossing at 21 minutes, 19 seconds. Last year’s Ski for Women was considered pretty slow too due to subzero, dry conditions, and Aldridge did that in 19:43. To offer more perspective, just two weeks ago Aldridge ripped through a 5K in 17:46 in fast, icy conditions during the Freezer Food Series.
Like any skier, though, Aldridge wasn’t about to quibble about more white stuff on which to play.
“You can’t argue with Mother Nature,” she said. “It was slow, but it was as good as it’s going to get. I was practically following the groomer.”
Aldridge was outfitted in a tutu, something she credited to 2000 Soldotna High School graduate Sarah Histand. Histand had posted something on social media Saturday about women climbing mountains in tutus.
Although the event stayed away from some of Tsalteshi’s worst hills, like the Bear loop, skiers still felt like they were climbing mountains at times.
“When I was skiing the flat stuff, I probably had the same heart rate as I normally do going up Bear,” Aldridge said.
The Tsalteshi board chose to donate this year’s proceeds to Freedom House, a long-term recovery residence for women, with the goal to open a similar residence for men in a few months.
“This is awesome,” said Jennifer Waller, executive director of Freedom House, as she passed out refreshments to racers. “The costumes were so much fun.
“The way our community supports us is amazing.”
Waller has never skied before. Sunday’s scene came close to convincing Waller and a co-worker to give it a try, but at the same time a trip to Hawaii is calling.
“We thought, ‘Should we try skiing?’ No, beaches,” Waller said. “It definitely looks fun, but I don’t care for the cold too much.”
The award for best costume went to Sara Bundy and RaChelle Gruenberg. They were dressed as Valentines in honor of women and the upcoming big day.
The dancing snow built up on their fake eyelashes and caused them to be 10 minutes slower than last year, but they were more than happy to trade 25 degrees of warmth for those two problems.
The two ski five to 10 times a season and love coming out for the Ski for Women.
“It gets us away from the kids, and Freedom House is a great cause,” Gruenberg said. “We’re both nurses, and we appreciate organizations like that, that help people like us.”
The event also featured a drag race for men, won by Jack Laker at 22:36. The creativity of the costumes didn’t abate for this one, thanks to the efforts of those like 2014 Kenai Central graduate Nate Mole.
He — with the help of fellow racers Mickinzie Ticknor and Charly Morton — broke out a purple jacket and pink leg warmers that looked like they were shorn off a llama — all tied together, of course, by a patterned dress and see-through-the-skin, ode-to-anatomy leggings.
It took him 40 minutes to dress.
“I kept going back and forth with what to wear,” Mole said. “I couldn’t decide.”
Lingafelt said the more moderate temperatures, the good snow and the opportunity to support Freedom House combined to almost double participants from last year. She also thanked Studio 49, Mountain Mama Originals, Beemun’s, Heritage Place and private donors for more support for the cause.
15th annual Ski for Women
1. Morgan Aldridge, 21 minutes, 19 seconds; 2. Carly Reimer, 22:03; 3. Amy Anderson, 22:10; 4. R. Taylor, 22:53; 5. Sarah Segura, 23:09; 6. Melissa Smith, 23:29; 7. Sarah Foster, 24:10; 8. Kat Sorensen, 25:57; 9. Grace Morrow, 26:37; 10. Patty Moran, 26:42; 11. Elizabeth Earl, 27:59; 12. Mickinzie Ticknor, 30:07; 13. Charly Morton, 30:08; 14. Megan Swangel, 30:54; 15. Denali Critchett, 33:28; 16. Breckin Sulley, 33:49; 17. Jennifer Showalter, 34:14; 18. Kristen Mitchell, 34:15; 19. Emily Ross, 36:03; 20. Marly Perschbacher, 36:04; 21. Kristina Cannava, 36:23; 22. Arianna Cannava, 36:32; 23. Audrey McDonald, 35:52; 24. Tammy LaFrancois, 37:12; 25. Laura Sievert, 37:43.
26. Amy Hogue, 37:58; 27. Megan Smith, 37:59; 28. Larissa Arbelovsky, 38:19; 29. Julie Laker, 38:25; 30. Paula Murray, 40:12; 31. Sara Hollers, 41:22; 32. Tara Ruffner, 41:35; 33. Carrie Wawrzky, 44:10; 34. Libby Jensen, 45:52; 35. Angie Nelson, 45:02; 36. Kate Harris, 45:39; 37. RaChelle Gruenberg, 46:52; 38. Sara Bundy, 46:27; 39. Kate Devine, 49:20; 40. Andreas Veh, 49:52; 41. Madison McDonald, 51:04; 42. Alicia Driscoll, 51:09; 43. Abby Huffer, 51:12; 44. Mia Taylor, 51:19; 45. Dawn Navarro, 52:46; 46. Maryjane Hadaway, 52:50; 47. Caraline Tompkins, 52:55; 48. Margaret Mueller, 53:00; 49. Sarah Miller, 53:19; 50. Jennifer Joanis, 53:21.
51. Angelica Babula, 53:25; 52. Madison McDonald, 53:31; 53. Andrea Caballero, 56:07; 54. Hadley Kornelis, 57:55; 55. Emily Kornelis, 57:56; 56. Taylor Ruffner, 59:00; 57. Jennifer Moss, 59:03; 58. Lucia Carson, 60:42; 59. Emily Taylor, 60:43; 60. Chantel Taylor, 60:45; 61. Rinna Carson, 60:49.
1. Jack Laker, 22:36; 2. Fran Gamen, 22:57; 3. Tucker Mueller, 23:15; 4. Chase Laker, 24:22; 5. Nate Mole, 25:39; 6. Marcus Mueller, 32:49.