This past weekend I spent my Saturday night waxing skis. Sunday, I woke up before the crack of dawn, at 7:30 a.m., to make the trip from Seward to Soldotna, where I donned my buff and gloves for the third annual Tour of Tsalteshi.
Seward hasn’t been the whitest of snow globes this winter — I had spent more time in the earlier, colder months lacing up running shoes rather than ski boots — but with a few laps around Bear Lake and some trips to ski trails in other areas of the state, I felt relatively ready to tackle 20 kilometers at Tsalteshi Trails.
The minimal training was paired with a lot of past skiing at Tsalteshi, including two previous tours, so I knew what I was getting into.
The first year they held the race, I reveled in the speed gained from fast, fast, fast trails.
The second year they held the race, I bemoaned a dumping of fresh snow that considerably slowed my pace. I think Exit Glacier would have crossed the finish line before me.
2020 was a happy medium.
The cold temperatures hindered my skate skis’ glide across the corduroy trails and I finished the race behind my 2018 time, but far ahead of any receding glaciers which may have entered.
And that’s what I love about skiing, everything is relative.
The conditions can make the same race course so completely different from year to year. I was probably the most ski fit in 2019 and took home my worst time so far. My first year, I was still learning the ropes of skate skiing, but finished with a time of which I’m still very proud.
Skiing is also great at mixing up the results.
I traveled to Soldotna with a group of Sewardites that were all in different stages of their skiing ability.
Kenny had been on skate skis just one time prior to race day, a leisurely lap on Bear Lake with me a few days before.
He started the race double poling at a fourth-place pace. That didn’t last, but he did surprise. I was warming up in the car after my finish, expecting to have at least 20 minutes until he crossed the line, when I saw him fly down the hill across the finish line.
Hallie and I hustled from the car to the finish line to congratulate him. She had already been done for a while, taking home second place in the women’s skate while donning a Seward Seahawks green and yellow jersey.
In most races of different types, Kenny, who has been training for a marathon in March, would have beat us, but with less than an hour of skate skiing under his belt his athleticism was slightly diminished by his burgeoning technique.
Patrick and Geoff took on the classic 20k, both making last-minute decisions to hop into the car. Patrick crossed the finish line surrounded by a group of cheerful women, who encouraged and helped the novice skier throughout the two-plus hours he was on the trail.
Geoff secured the red lantern, ensuring that our group covered the spectrum of finish times and showing just how icy a beard can get.
At the end of the day, which was spent over a beer from Kenai River Brewing, we each secured a feat on our own skiing page. Hallie took home second place, I was happy to see how my skiing skills continue to grow and Kenny, Patrick and Geoff were able to ski Tsalteshi Trails for the first time and finish their first ski race.
It was a good weekend spent skiing with friends.
By KAT SORENSEN
For the Clarion