Is There a Moose on the Loose?
Endurance Adventures kicked off their inaugural Tour of Anchorage trip with six participants and two trip leaders. Trip leaders Kim and Craig Rudd started there first pre-trip ski with a close moose encounter as we nearly ran into it flying down the descent of Spencer Loop! Over the entire trip we encountered multiple moose either along the trail or on the road.
Trip participants had to keep on high alert while skiing at Kincaid Park which seemed to attract the most Moose encounters. The weather forecast should have read, “sunshine, blue skies, temps in the mid-thirties with a chance of moose droppings along the way”!
In addition to moose sightings, participants enjoyed views of the beautiful Alaskan mountain range displayed each day as we skied at different trailheads. The first day, the group watched the famous Iditarod ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage. There were thousands of spectators from all over Alaska that came out to cheer on the musher teams. The Iditarod ‘s official start is about an hour’s drive north to the town of Wasilla where mushers and spectators have an amazing view of Denali.
Following the Iditarod, we made our way to the Ulu factory. The Ulu is the coveted Alaskan knife that is finely crafted using selected kiln dried Alaskan Birch. The blade (ulu) is an ancient artifact from the natives of the Arctic, fashioned out of necessity for their cutting needs.
Right outside the Ulu factory we enjoyed viewing some spectacular snow art displays at the Alaska state snow sculpture contest. On our hike back, we walked through a winter carnival that included a fur trade auction selling a variety of hides from the Alaska Trappers Association.
After grabbing some lunch and visiting the local nordic ski shop, trip leaders dropped off participants along the coastal trail to ski the last 10 km of the Tour of Anchorage racecourse. Views of Cook Inlet, Denali and the Chugach mountain range were enjoyed as we climbed up the final hill into Kincaid park. The beauty of Alaska skiing is enjoying mountain top views without the stress of high altitude.
Day two was the Tour of Anchorage race. Anchorage had received over four feet of snow allowing the racecourse to be in pristine condition. Participants had the option to race in the 25 or 50 km events or choose to ski at Kincaid Park and watch the race finishers. The 50 km race started Northeast of Anchorage at Hillside Park, located in the Chugach State Park. The first ten kilometers included steep ascents rewarding the skiers with stunning views of Denali and the Chugach mountain range.
Rollercoaster descents were a treat after the leg burner climb. The Hillside trails then connect skiers onto the Tour of Anchorage Trail which is mostly downhill and flat terrain all the way to the APU campus 25 km racecourse start. The last 25 km of the race take you along Chester Creek Trail with a mix of nature and urban sightseeing along the edge of downtown Anchorage. In the final section, participants enjoy ocean and mountain views along the Coastal Trail, with a challenging climb into Kincaid Park stadium.
One of our participants, Maxwell Turnberg, learned how to ski this past year through one of the Loppet Foundation coach’s Gregg Klave. The Tour of Anchorage would be his inaugural race event! During the race Maxwell ran into a moose in the middle of the trail, but was able to sneak past him safely! One of the highlights of my trip was cheering on Maxwell at the finish and taking his picture next to Olympian Kikkan Randall.
Jill Hanson, former Buffalo Nordic High School ski team coach was invited to go on the trip by her former Buffalo alumni skiers Ingrid Leask and Jamie Nelson. Jill, age 72, finished the 25 km classic event and daily displayed more energy than all of us combined. Race finishers enjoyed sharing their stories at the post-race beer party inside the Kincaid Chalet.
The following day we rented Nordic skates (ice skates that allow you to wear your regular ski skate boots) for everyone and headed to Portage Lake to view the massive Portage Glacier. The mountain views from the lake were spectacular with full sun and blue skis.
Following our skate we headed to Alyeska Resort where some of the participants enjoyed the new Nordic Spa. The spa is set within the jaw-dropping scenery of the Chugach mountains surrounded by the northernmost rainforest. Participants relaxed in a variety of outdoor saunas and hot/cold pools for some hydrotherapy treatment! A few others went skiing at the Meadow trails located at the base of Alyeska downhill area. These trails connected all the way to the Girdwood trails where skiers enjoyed gazing up at massive western hemlock and spruce trees.
The day was topped off by a four-course dinner on top of Alyeska Mountain at the Seven Glaciers restaurant. Participants enjoyed mountain and coastal views riding up the gondola to the very top of the mountain as well as sunset views while enjoying dinner.
Day three included ski adventures at Hatcher Pass located in Palmer. Following our morning ski we enjoyed watching some moose graze on some bushes along the road. We often encountered moose either on the ski trail or along the road driving. The group was treated to moose stew and fresh bread at my friend Ira Edward’s home in Palmer.
After our bellies were filled with moose stew we headed to ski at the official start of the Iditarod in Wasilla. As we drove into town there were breathtaking views of Mt. Denali. We continued to enjoy the mountain views skiing on the snowmobile trails which connected a multitude of lakes to land (similar to the BWCA). One of the lakes provided some exciting dogsled spectating as well as a backyard full of barking Alaskan Huskies that most likely were being trained for next year’s Iditarod.
Other trip highlights included exploring the 100 km of world class trails at both Kincaid and Hillside Parks. The trip ended with a sunset view on top of Glen Alps trailhead with views of Denali and Cook Inlet. Trip participants left with their hearts filled with Alaskan adventure memories and new friends!
I decided to extend my stay in Anchorage to explore future venues and adventures for next year’s Tour of Anchorage Trip! Post-trip exploration included another Nordic skate to Portage glacier, fat bike riding to Spencer Glacier, downhill skiing at Alyeska Resort and hiking/skiing at various parks in Anchorage.
I am already excited to plan next year’s Tour of Anchorage trip. For more details about Endurance Adventures trips visit enduradv.com!
Kim Rudd, Endurance Adventures Owner