It took some extra effort and a extra-large dose of Skagway hospitality, but a number of Juneau residents overcame transportation travails last month to ski in the 2003 Buckwheat Ski Classic.
The Skagway-based race, first run in 1987, takes place at Log Cabin, British Columbia, a spot north of Skagway where the tracks of the White Pass & Yukon Railway cross the Klondike Highway. It draws skiers from Skagway, Juneau and across Southeast Alaska, as well as a sizable contingent from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, for cross-country ski and snowshoe races of varying lengths.
This year's race was held on March 22. But skiers from Juneau ran into trouble getting there when the pre-race ferry was delayed due to mechanical difficulties.
With assistance from Skagway Air Service and Wings of Alaska, a number of Juneau residents flew up to Skagway for the race. Nancy Thomas of Juneau, who skied the 25-kilometer race, was one of those who hopped aboard a plane. However, without their cars, the Juneau skiers had to find a way to reach the trail system 25 miles north of Skagway.
Buckwheat Donahue, executive director of the Skagway Convention and Visitors Bureau and the race's namesake, made sure they weren't left out in the cold.
"All of us from Juneau didn't have vehicles," Thomas said, "so (Donahue) had the shuttle companies from Skagway pick us up at our hotels and sit up there" at the trailhead, providing a warm place to sit at the isolated parking lot.
And the race-day weather made the effort worthwhile.
"The conditions were great," said Odin Brudie of Juneau, who completed the 25-kilometer race. "There was some fresh snow, but a really well-set track."
"It was clear, calm and beautiful," Thomas said. "It's the first time I've been in Skagway all these years when the wind wasn't blowing."
Olympic skier Adam Verrier of Anchorage participated in the 50-kilometer race and provided encouragement to a number of Juneau skiers he taught at a cross-country ski clinic in Juneau earlier this year.
The top Juneau finisher from this year's races was Juneau-Douglas High School sophomore Tristan Knutson-Lombardo, who traded in his running shoes for snowshoes and won the men's 5-kilometer race.