DATE: Nov 4
TIME: 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
LOCATION: Alaska Pacific University campus, 4101 University Drive
MORE INFORMATION: alaskasnow.org
SnowFest features experienced racers and riders who share their best advice
I was just 16 years old when I climbed on the back of my boyfriend’s snowmachine and set out with him across Sand Lake in Anchorage for an evening ride. The temperature hovered near minus 20 degrees, but at 16, I didn’t think much about that – at least not until we stopped in the middle of the lake and he shut off the sled.
I remember climbing off the machine and looking up at the Northern Lights dancing across the night sky. I thought how spectacular and fortunate we were to witness this. But when my friend tried to start the sled and the pull-cord came off in his hand, the joy of the experience dissipated instantly. I was getting cold, really cold. All I wanted was to get home and inside where I could warm up.
Fortunately I had dressed in multiple layers, including gloves and hat but the clothing we had back in those days did little to ward off the deep chill. I danced and hopped around impatiently as he struggled to get the rope back on the pulley so he could start the sled. No such luck. Eventually he announced we would have to walk the three-plus-miles we had ridden in minutes back to the house.
As we trudged through the snow, the minutes stretched longer and longer and my cheeks grew white with frostbite. My fingers and toes felt numb. I began to wonder if we would make it home. Seeing the lights of my brother’s car approaching brought tears of relief.
I learned a lot of valuable lessons that night about the importance of being properly dressed and prepared. I also realized that I still loved riding and just had to be much smarter about how and with whom I would ride.
Since that time I have had the joy of many, many great rides with wonderful friends. Most of all, I’ve been fortunate to meet and talk with some of the greatest riders of our time. Tyler Aklestad, winner of the 2017 Valdez Mayor’s Cup, 2016 Iron Dog champion, plus multiple Arctic Man championships, is one of those riders. Aklestad has shared some harrowing stories from the trail, which have further emphasized the importance of being properly trained and equipped before riding.
Chris Olds, the 2010 and 2011 Iron Dog champion; Korey Cronquist, owner of Team CC and a former racer; and Mike Buck, a teacher and former department of labor safety expert who has led Arctic expeditions and numerous other backcountry rides, are a few more. These guys all have incredible stories that prove over and over that the more prepared and educated you are before you go, the fewer lessons you will have to learn the hard way. While these guys have survived their close calls with disaster, many others have not.
On Nov. 4, some of these great riders, along with a host of professional instructors, will be on hand for the annual SnowFest to help you get ready to ride, ski, board, walk and play on the snow. This year, the SnowFest will be held at Alaska Pacific University and is free, thanks to AARP Alaska and the Alaska Department of Public Safety.
The SnowFest includes movies, talks with instructors, hands-on skill sessions and more. These are a series of short workshops that will help you test your current skill level and determine the right training for the way you recreate. Register and learn more at www.AlaskaSnow.org or call 907-255-2242.