Category Archives: skiing

Ultimate adventure — Soldotna mountaineer treks through TV land in NatGeo show

 

Photo courtesy of Tyler Johnson. Tyler Johnson takes in the view from the summit of Cho Oyu on the Tibet-Nepal boarder in 2007.

Photo courtesy of Tyler Johnson. Tyler Johnson takes in the view from the summit of Cho Oyu on the Tibet-Nepal boarder in 2007.

Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part story about a Soldotna mountaineer’s adventures in TV land.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

When Tyler Johnson agreed to be a competitor on the first season of “Ultimate Survival Alaska,” he had no real idea what he was getting himself into, and even less idea when he was getting into it.

It was Friday, Aug. 19, 2012, when Johnson, originally from Soldotna, a civil engineer and 1995 graduate of Skyview High School, was called to a casting meeting Monday in Anchorage. He had just stepped off a plane after spending two months working in Bethel, and thought at first the call from a Los Angeles number was a telemarketer.

“He’s like, ‘You want to be on TV?’ I’m like, ‘All right, I’m about ready to hang up.’ ‘No, you interviewed for the show, you know, the thing in the spring?’ I was like, ‘Oh, yeah.’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, we want you to be on the show.’”

Oh, right — that interview. Catalina Productions had been seeking candidates for a new reality show for the National Geographic Channel, where experienced outdoorsmen would navigate through extreme backcountry environments in Alaska. A buddy recommended Johnson, so he did a seven-minute interview to LA over Skype.

Photo courtesy of Tyler Johnson. The Alaskans team, from left, Vern Tejas, Tyler Johnson and Marty Raney, traveled to the infamous bus from “Into the Wild,” where Chris McCandless lost his life, in an episode of “Ultimate Survival Alaska.” Episodes in Season Three air Sundays on the National Geographic channel.

Photo courtesy of Tyler Johnson. The Alaskans team, from left, Vern Tejas, Tyler Johnson and Marty Raney, traveled to the infamous bus from “Into the Wild,” where Chris McCandless lost his life, in an episode of “Ultimate Survival Alaska.” Episodes in Season Three air Sundays on the National Geographic channel.

“For the show, Season One they wanted people who know how to operate in the wilds of Alaska. … And it was really broad questions. They ask these really grandiose questions, like, ‘What’s the hell-raising, scariest thing you’ve ever …?’ I was like, ‘Well, uh… .’ I thought there was no chance of getting this.”

The interview quickly slipped his attention, subsumed by work — at the time he was co-owner of a busy engineering company — being dad to his daughter, Evie, now 11, and fitting in his own outdoor adventures.

But then, the call. He went to the meeting, curiosity piqued, and found the rest of the eight-member cast of Season One, including dog mushers Dallas and Tyrell Seavey and Brent Sass, and veteran mountain guides Marty Raney and Willi Prittie.

“Yeah, it was legit,” Johnson said. “They interviewed 500 people and picked eight.”

At first he thought the show was a race with a substantial cash prize at the end. He was less interested when he realized it was more of a wilderness survival expedition. And even less so when he realized the time frame.

“I was like, ‘Hey, did anybody ask when we’re leaving?’ ‘Uh, we’re leaving Friday’ — and this is Monday — for two months. And we can’t have cellphones, we can’t call home for two months, and they gave me a five-day notice,” he said.

But producers also said the magic word — adventure.

“They said they were going to take us to all these places,” Johnson said.

Arrigetch Peaks, the Valley of 10,000 Smokes. Places on an Alaska adventurer’s dream list, just not often within their budget.

It was a random. It was an unknown. It was adventure. He was in.

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Filed under entertainment, mountain climbing, outdoors, skiing

Trusty Tusty trails — Volunteer effort expands learning beyond school’s classrooms, walls

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

There are the reading, writing and arithmetic standards that all students everywhere should learn. And then there is regional knowledge, inherent to a specific place or climate. In Alaska, that often means outdoor abilities. Those skills might not make it into any official curriculum, but some schools find ways to expand lessons to include those of the life variety.

At Tustumena Elementary School in Kasilof, learning takes place in the classroom during the school day, and beyond. In this case, surrounding the school, both before and after school hours, all winter long, thanks to resurrected ski trails that have been developed around the school.

Dave Michael, a fourth-grade teacher at Tustumena, was also a member of the U.S. Olympic cross-country ski team in 1980. He saw a need for ski trails available for school and community use that don’t require a drive to Soldotna or Kenai.

“Using all the potential loops, I will groom about 2.5 kilometers of very easy, gently rolling ski trail. I will attempt to keep both a classic track as well as a skate surface groomed on a weekly basis or as it is needed. It is definitely intended for community use on the broader scale,” he said.

The trails were defunct pathways though the forest behind the school.

“The first set of trails was established here probably close to 30 years ago when Al Besh was the building administrator. As I understand it, Al was able to get the Army Corps. of Engineers to bring in a small bulldozer and cut a trail that extended outward behind the school in a left-hand loop, which was about one to 1.5 kilometers in length,” Michael said.

The trails were actively used for a time, but as can be the case with things involving work to keep up, maintenance waxed and waned with time.

“After some time, the interest and use of that trail seems to have died out. With lack of use and yearly maintenance, some of the trails became overgrown and some sections became inaccessible due to the development of adjacent roads, neighborhoods and homes,” Michael said.

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Filed under Kasilof, outdoors, schools, skiing

Path to a parks plan — Soldotna issues draft parks, trails master plan

File photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. A runner in the Kenai River Marathon heads down Bridge Access Road with the mountains flanking Cook Inlet behind her.

File photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. A runner in the Kenai River Marathon heads down Bridge Access Road with the mountains flanking Cook Inlet behind her.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

If you live in the Soldotna area and are recreation- or activity-minded, chances are you’ve thought at least one of the following:

It’d sure be nice to have longer stretches to walk along the Kenai River.

It’s too bad the Unity Trail doesn’t continue through Soldotna, so we don’t have to walk, run or ride a bike right alongside the Sterling Highway.

I wish there were an indoor place to walk, or some turf on which to practice soccer before the snow melts.

It’d be great if teens had more maintained, supervised places to hang out and recreate.

Can’t someone do something to make the Sterling-Kenai Spur highways “Y” intersection less of a pain for pedestrians and bicyclists?

Or the big one — it would be so great to get back and forth from Kenai Peninsula College and downtown Soldotna without having to go all the way around Kalifornsky Beach Road to the Sterling Highway to the David Douthit Memorial Bridge over the Kenai River.

Well, Soldotna, that wishful thinking is on a path to being granted, with the Soldotna Parks and Trails planning process nearing completion. After reviewing past planning efforts, meeting with stakeholder and user groups, conferring with partner agencies and organizations, and soliciting input through a public survey, Casey Planning and Design has released a semifinal, 75 percent-complete draft Soldotna Parks and Trails Master Plan.

An open house will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Soldotna Sports Center, where the public can view the draft plan and its recommendations, ask questions and provide feedback. The draft plan, map and associated documents also will be available on the city of Soldotna’s website. The plan is open for review and public comment through May 10. Planners will contact season-specific recreational user groups over the summer — which might not have been thoroughly represented in the survey conducted this winter — for more input, then submit the plan to the city council for approval next fall.

“We want to keep it at a level of ‘What about?’ As opposed to, ‘Why didn’t they?’ At this point it’s still dynamic,” said Andrew Carmichael, city of Soldotna Parks and Recreation director.

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Filed under biking, hiking, outdoors, recreation, skating, skiing, Soldotna, sports, transportation, Tsalteshi Trails

Taking aim at biathlon revival — Ski group builds on youth interest

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Several youth take aim at targets 50 meters away during a biathlon event Saturday at Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna. The event combines the athleticism of skiing with the controlled breathing and precision aiming and shooting of a .22-caliber rifle.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Several youth take aim at targets 50 meters away during a biathlon event Saturday at Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna. The event combines the athleticism of skiing with the controlled breathing and precision aiming and shooting of a .22-caliber rifle.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

With each visibly steaming exhale, May Bruno’s cheeks grew rosier. The 12-year-old was working hard in the cool morning air, but her mind was not on the single-digit temperatures. Just arriving from skiing the short, but hilly, Raven Loop on the Tsalteshi Trails system, the teen was focused on her breathing.

She glided in and quickly transitioned to lying in a prone position, then picked up a .22-caliber rifle, rotated the bolt in battery, and took aim with the iron sights on a small, 1 ¾-inch target 50 meters downrange.

As she concentrated and got her breathing under control, she moved her still-gloved index finger onto the trigger. Without jerking she smoothly squeezed off a shot. The rifle popped, and a “ding” of success could be heard even before Tim Bruno — her father and a level-one biathlon instructor staring at the target through a spotting scope — announced that she had hit her mark.

Her bluish lips formed a large smile, the kind that comes from success, but she continued working through her still-full clip. Pulling the bolt back, a small brass shell flew out, glinting in the morning light. Before the still-hot empty cartridge hissed into the snow, Bruno had already slammed the bolt forward and loaded another round. Over and over again she hit her mark, until finally her rifle ran silent. Only the sweet smell of gun-smoke emanated from its empty chamber.

“These are difficult targets to hit even without breathing hard, but when you add in the hard breathing and increased heart beating from skiing so fast, this can be daunting to kids,” Tim Bruno said.

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Coach’s Corner: First climb up, next glide down

By Alan Boraas, for the Redoubt Reporter

Uphill and downhill technique between classic and skate, or freestyle, cross-country skiing is much the same in some respects. Gravity is gravity, and exertion is needed to overcome it. But the devil, and differences, is in the details.

Uphill

Skate skiing technique for skiing uphill is modulated depending on the angle of the hill. The steeper the hill, the quicker the tempo, the shorter the arm swing and the shorter the glide.

Soldotna High School skiers crouch into different degrees of tucks to get down a hill during the Homer Invitational ski meet on Dec. 16.

Soldotna High School skiers crouch into different degrees of tucks to get down a hill during the Homer Invitational ski meet on Dec. 16.

The same, step-glide technique holds true for uphills as it does for flats — step up the hill, then glide on the opposite ski. The pattern is just sped up into a quicker tempo with shorter steps and glides to maintain speed

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Step wider and squat lower to get more leg power, and bend at the ankles to create a forward lean into the hill to compensate for steepness.

The steeper the hill, the more you should repeat this mantra: “lower, shorter, quicker.”

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Skate into better cross-country ski technique

By Alan Boraas, for the Redoubt Reporter

Editor’s note: This is part three of a series of columns explaining the techniques of cross-country skiing. Part one, Dec. 5, and part two, Dec. 12, focused on classic skiing. They can be found at http://www.redoubtreporter.wordpress.com.

To say one is skating through life means they are taking it easy, not putting forth much effort and coasting along through whatever twists and bumps come. That is decidedly not the case when the term skating refers to a style of cross-country skiing, but for those who master this speedy, smooth technique, they will fly along the trails, looking to others as though they just might be coasting through the air.

Skate, also called freestyle, skiing utilizes a “V” or diagonal stride, similar to ice skating or in-line roller-skating. It uses lighter, narrower skies, longer ski poles and more reinforced boots and is best done on wide, groomed trails. Skate skiing can be a faster and more glide-efficient means of motion over the forward foot kick motion of classic skiing.

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Ease uphill battle of downhill ski skills

Photos courtesy of Clark Fair. Figure 7: Use a longer arm extension on flat ground. Here, Logan Hemphill, of Skyview High School, skis in the 2011-12 Region III meet held Feb. 17 and 18, 2012, at Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna.

Photos courtesy of Clark Fair. Figure 7: Use a longer arm extension on flat ground. Here, Logan Hemphill, of Skyview High School, skis in the 2011-12 Region III meet held Feb. 17 and 18, 2012, at Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna.

Editor’s note: This is part two of a series of columns explaining the techniques of cross-country skiing.  

Last week, we began with the Seven Magic Movements of Cross-Country Skiing — No. 1, athletic posture; No. 2, forward lean; No. 3, the kick; No. 4, the glide and No. 5, compression. This week, we pick up where we left off in classic skiing:

  • No. 6: Pole plant. Arms should be bent at a 60-degree angle or less. If viewed from the side, poles should be planted with a forward angle. If viewed from the front, poles should be vertical or angled slightly to your centerline. The shoulders should be parallel, not hunched on the pole arm. Common problems: If you find your arms are too straight, try bending an arm as you bring it forward to plant the pole. If the pole shoulder is hunched, try keeping shoulders relaxed, and don’t overswing your arms too high when diagonal poling.

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