Frigid temps don't deter cross-country skiers

Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2008

Cold weather Saturday didn't stop Eaglecrest Ski Area from hosting its first competitive Nordic race in two years, but it diminished the number of entrants.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

By the race's end, frost heaves matted eyebrows and cheeks were stung pinkish-white. Merely 5 degrees at noon, gusting 30 mph winds dropped temperatures far below minimal comfort levels.

"The wind out there is brutal, but when it stops it is pretty nice out there," said Greg Patz, who has been cross-country skiing in Juneau for more than 10 years. "The snow on the trail is dry and sharp, so you really have to push your skis because there is not a lot of glide. It is a really good workout."

Eaglecrest races usually attract 15-25 participants, but due to the windy and cold conditions, only six entered on Saturday.

Tim Blust won the 15-kilomenter race in 55 minutes and 10 seconds, nipping Dan Fremgen by 2 seconds.

"When this type of weather moves in we typically have a slow turnout," said Jeff Brown, Eaglecrest's director of mountain operations.

All of the athletes who competed Saturday are training for other competitions, but anyone interested in cross-country ski racing is welcome to enter the ski area events.

"A bunch of us are getting in shape for the Tour of Anchorage, the World Masters (Cup) in McCall, Idaho, later this month, and the Buckwheat (Ski Classic) in Skagway, a fifty kilometer event coming up in March," Odin Brudie said before the race. "We figured it's time to blow out the carbon and up the tempo a bit."

Jim Powell, who sits on the statewide board of directors for the Arctic Winter Games, usually coordinates the cross-country ski races in Juneau.

"Because the World Masters are being held in our country, anybody can get in without qualifying, so it is quite an opportunity for these athletes," Powell said. "They are some of the best skiers in town and a few of them compete on a national scale. They have been doing between 50 and 100 kilometers per week, but you just can't simulate a race and push yourself that hard in a workout."

Powell plans another race on Eaglecrest's Nordic track in two weeks.

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