So now that Christmas is over and the snow has really come (over 24 inches at our house), its high time for these two Southerners to find our winter sports. Considering we grew up in the Carolinas and the first time I ever put on a pair of skis was when I was 21, I had no idea what our sport options even really were.
We’ve been running, but honestly: it’s tough to get a great run in when there is 6 inches of fresh powder knocking you off your balance. And the thought of gearing up to run in 8 degree weather is about as appealing as the thought of running in 98 degree weather – not enjoyable.
Luckily, Alaska is awesome and Anchorage is home to a lengthy trail and park system, amazingly close mountains, and one of the best ski resorts in the nation is only a 45 minute drive.
So Matt and I have spent the long holiday weekend finding our sport.
First up: Snowshoeing.
Thursday night was pretty with warmish temperatures (20’s baby!) so we headed up to the Glen Alps trail for some sunset snowshoeing before meeting some friends for dinner at Midnight Sun Brewing Company. It was a lot of fun, and the view of the city from the mountains was amazing. I really enjoyed snow shoeing because I feel like it’s something we can bring the dogs along for, and would allow us to explore some uncovered trails through the surrounding Chugach Mountain Range.
Affordability: Very. I got our snowshoes for $60/each from Costco. Holla’!
Ease of Adaptation: Super Easy. You basically strap them on your boots and walk. I fell down a few times, but only when I stepped where it was too deep to keep my balance, and when I tried to walk backwards. I wouldn’t recommend walking backwards.
Frequency Possibility: High. We can literally walk out our door and do this on any of the hundreds of miles of trails running though the city or through the acres of woods and bogs around town.
I would put snow shoeing high on the Stewart’s winter activity roster. Heck yes, one winter sport down!
Saturdays Activity: Snowboarding
This was definitely more of a Matt sport than an Emily sport. For some reason, I have this irrational fear that I’m going to lose control, crash into a tree, and die. or even worse: have to get surgery at a hospital. So I tend to be more on the cautious side when doing extreme sports like this.
Matt of course took to it like a fish to water.
Our friend Erin O. is a big fan of snowboarding (she even owns her own gear: clearly dedicated to the sport) so she was nice enough (and patient enough) to offer to teach us how. We headed up to Hilltop Ski Area (a quick 15 minute ride from our house) for an afternoon of lessons.
It took me about 90 minutes to get down the run. Erin was so patient, checking on both of us and offering advice. She really is an amazing teacher at this, and made it fairly easy to understand the concepts and motions of the sport.
Once I finally got down, I could tell Erin & Matt were eager to tackle the mountain again, so I headed over to the bunny slope to work on what I had learned.
One thing I liked about this bunny slope was it was steep enough and long enough to try to curve motions Erin had taught us (going from a toe grip to a heel grip as I changed what direction I faced) with the reassurance that if I broke my body the EMS was right at the base of the hill.
Affordability: Not so much. Lift passes were $30 for the afternoon and Alyeska runs up to $80. Plus, buying a board is around $400, not including boots and bindings.
Ease of Adaptation: Tough. But exhilarating. The times when I was getting the hang of it and felt like I knew what I was doing were awesome. Snowboarding is supposed to be a tougher activity to learn, and it definitely was a challenge. Matt picked up on it quickly (as I expected he would), but it will take me a while before I’m racing down the mountain doing tricks.
Frequency Possibility: Occasionally? Matt loved the experience, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he got really into it and started going a lot with our friends. I may be an occasional friend of the mountain, and only when people suggest I come. This is Matt territory.
Sunday’s Recovery: Cross Country Skiing
This is my sport. Or at least, it will be (I hope).
Our friend Matt B. has been in Alaska for a while, and he offered up lessons for Cross Country and Skate Skiing to several of us new Alaskans. I am so glad we went.
Most everything about cross country is right up my alley – nice workout without the danger of killing myself by flying at high speeds into a tree (WHY IS THIS A FEAR?!), feels like I’m on an elliptical, great allover body workout, and really scenic routes.
About half the group was skate skiing, the other half cross country. One thing I liked about cross country was the motions were very familiar – like using an elliptical but your arms got a way better workout. We went through Goose Lake Park and explored the area, doing around 2 miles of trails. The trails are groomed, so its easy to ski, and for cross country there are tracks for your skis to go into. That’s amazing!
That’s not to say it wasn’t hard. I fell more than a few times (if you lean to either side, you lose your balance) and climbing hills is not the easiest (or at least until I build up some body strength). But overall, this was one of my best activities. It’s a great way to spend time with friends and have conversations while getting in a solid workout. I give it two thumbs up!
Affordability: Medium. Rentals were cheap from REI ($19/ea for 24 hours) and apparently you can buy the skis and boots from secondhand sport shops for under $200. Since trails are everywhere, you don’t have to spend money on a lift ticket, you can just walk to any park and go.
Ease of Adaptation: Cross-country – very easy. Skate skiing was a little bit harder, because of the motions on top of the fact that skis are big. But Skate skiing is supposed to be faster.
Frequency Possibility: For me, high. In fact, we’re planning on going again Monday night before we have to return our rentals. I throughly enjoyed it and hope it will become something I can do after work at least once a week. Matt preferred the skate skiing over the cross country, but I know he liked it a lot as well.
Overall, our foray into winter sports has been fun, exhausting, and painful. The past few days have been exactly what I imagined our Alaskan adventure would be: great friends spending time outdoors doing active things. With time this season, I hope we will be able to learn and enjoy all that winter has to offer. As far as the pain goes though, I took a long hot bath after cross country skiing to relax my muscles and examine my poor bruises (right calf, both knees, tailbone, both elbows). I’m hoping with time I’ll stop falling so much.