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Tim's Blog About Skiing Stuff

Mid November 2019: New XC Skiing Experiences Ahead in Southcentral, AK ... Due To Summer Fires

This summer in Southcentral Alaska saw a record amount of forest fire activity.  Trails that cross these burn areas will be very different this winter.  I remember skiing the Tustumena 200 dog sled race course in 2004.  And then again in 2011 after the Caribou Hills fire.  It was hard to believe you were skiing the same trails.  Likewise with the burns of this summer.  Skiing through them will be a new experience, especially if you have skied the trails before.

The Willow Trail Committee trails south of Deshka Landing now cross a burn area.  Fire-ravaged Swan Lake trails will be very different, as well with the Mystery Creek Road area.  Backcountry touring through the burn areas will be unique.  I wish these forest fires didn't happen.  But might as well make the best of them now, and check them out on skis this winter.

Montana Creek Fire, near Talkeetna "Y" Remnant of the 2007 Caribou Hills fire (picture taken while mountain biking this summer). Swan Lake Fire, in its infancy, as seen from Anchorage.
 
Mid November 2019: Skiers Are Not The Only Animals That Wish Snow Was Here

Rabbits wish snow was here, so their coats-turned-white would camouflage them, instead of give them away.  Moose (see picture above) and other animals that use the insulating properties of snow also wish the ground was snow-covered by now.
 
Early November 2019: What Early Season XC Skiing In Alaska Looks Like These Days ...

 
   
     
Late October 2019: Essential Phone Apps For Bike, Hike and XC Ski Road Tripping.  And They're Free.

iOverlander.  Trailforks.  AllTrails.

Recently we went on an 8000 mile road trip, from Anchorage to Tuktoyaktuk, NWT to Arizona and back to Anchorage.  We used the three apps listed above frequently.  iOverland for ideas on where to camp.  Trailforks for bike and ski trails.  AllTrails for hiking trails.  All three of these apps are crowd-sourced, GPS map-interface apps.  All three apps are functional without a WIFI connection.  After a location or trail on these apps gets your interest, comments and descriptions by users help you decide whether to go there or not.  If you haven't already, install these free apps on your phone and play with them (links above).  Maybe they will become the essential tools for you that they are for us.  And you will be ready to maximize the activity time of your next road trip!

Tuktoyaktuk, NWT. Camping spot in BC found via iOverlander app (van is in picture). Smoky Mountain Road, Southern UT
Mountain bike single-track trails found via Trailforks app.  Visited 24 MTB trail systems in YT, BC, WA, OR, ID and UT.
AllTrails will help you find North America's hiking trails (NWT and UT). Ski trails in Canada found via Trailforks app (Grande Prairie and Whitehorse).
 
Late September 2019: Visiting a Famous XC Skiing Town ... Inuvik, NWT

Back in the 60's and 70's a lot of good Canadian cross country ski racers came from the Inuvik area of the Northwest Territories.  In this very remote area of Canada, the TEST program once flourished.  The Territorial Experimental Ski Training program led by Bjorger Pettersen.  Some of the best Canadian ski racers of this era came from this program, such as Shirley and Sharon Firth, Herb Bullock, Fred Kelly and Angus Cockney.

I was ski racing during the tail end of the Inuvik phenomenon's prime years.  It was unbelievable to me how skiers so good could come from a place so remote.  Recently, while driving from Anchorage to Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean, I stopped in Inuvik and went running on their ski trails.  Some of the trails seem to be frozen in time.  Paths cleared through the taiga that have never seen a bulldozer.  You can sense the spirits of past  Inuvik skiers on these trails.  Glad to finally visit the legendary trails of Inuvik.

For more information about the TEST ski program, click here.

For a great video about the Firth sisters, click here.

Where is Inuvik?  Click here.

From Dawson City, YT, you have to drive over 450 miles of dirt road to get to Inuvik. Inuvik Ski Club buildings.  
  A boggy ski trail through the taiga.  This trail has never seen a bulldozer.  Likely pretty much the same as it was in the 60's.    
I've read that the Inuvik Ski Club is struggling.  But it is right across the road from a huge recreation center (hockey arena).  
Vintage xc skiing pictures that can be found in the cafeteria area of a grocery store in Inuvik.
A street sign in Inuvik.
Shirley Firth winning US Jr. Nationals in Girdwood, AK in 1969.  Chuck Johnson photo.
 
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