Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summertime

Summer is flying by, and it seems like we've been too busy lately even to take pictures of all the awesome things that are happening. After the Eagle Glacier we had a bit of down time followed by a trip to Haines, AK with some of the up and comers on the Yukon Ski Team. We put in a lot of good hours rollerskiing on America's lovely roads, working especially on skating technique. A huge thanks goes to the Deulings for putting six of us up in their waterfront home in Haines. Downtime was especially fun on this trip as we had access to crab pots, ocean fishing gear and Paul Deuling's brain to pick about sheep hunting. 
Since then we've bar tended a wedding (our old coach Jonathan Kerr got hitched about a week ago), laid plans for open season in August, thrashed ourselves at the gym, chased the Nish around on rollerskis and spent some time on the water enjoying the all-too-short summer. 

Post workout packrafting session at the intake:

Baby eagle above the Yukon River

Momma bird watching close by. 


That's all for now! lots more coming up for the YES men in the next few weeks.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Eagle Glacier Video from Julia Kern

Julia Kern put together an awesome video of the week on the Eagle Glacier, it gives a great sense of what it's like to be up there! Some good heli shots in there too. Thanks to Alpine Air for helping to continue making the Eagle Glacier camp possible. Thanks again to Erik Flora for getting us back up there for a third year of some of the best ski training I've ever done. 


Eagle Glacier Camp

For it's third consecutive year, the Yukon Elite Squad headed to Girdwood for a week of summer skiing on the Eagle Glacier. We were lucky to be able to join Erik Flora and the APU Elite team for a whole lot of exceptional training, exceptional amounts of food and exceptionally long afternoon naps. 

Just prior to the Eagle, the Yukon Elite Squad was part of the winning 4 person team in the Kluane Chilkat bike race. Knute and Colin both won their respective legs in tough solo tests against the wind. Former Yukon Ski Team athletes Ray Sabo and Sam Lindsay rode strong legs as well to help put the team on top. Immediately after the relay we headed for anchorage. 24 hours after the end of the race we boarded a helicopter in Girdwood bound for a distant ridge line that happens to house a PB100, 8km of ski trail and a bunkhouse with beds, industrial kitchen and a few million calories of food at our disposal. Skiing started the next day.

The week was focused on volume, making technique changes on snow and applying those changes to racing. Efficiency on skis, power application and tweaking mechanics of skiing were some of the major themes. 

We were lucky with the weather when we arrived in Girdwood, after a day a major wintery weather system moved in, dumping a few feet of snow on the glacier and leaving us to ski in a whiteout for most of the week.

When the weather cleared on the last day we were treated to one of the best skis I can remember. Hard trails, freshly groomed corduroy and 3 hours of ripping around on a trail that skis like a race course was a perfect way to end the week.

Blizzard:

Lunchtime!

The door to the waxroom was left open during the storm. Rime ice and snow drifts coated pretty much everything inside.

Whiteout

Lex and Eric finishing off an epic whiteout ski.

The PB keeping things fresh for us.

The few times the weather broke were appreciated even more than usual.

Mock team sprint simulation. Some seriously good competition can be found in this corner of the world.

The pack heads out on the first lap of the relay.

Cruising with a big train of guys who can ski exceptionally fast.

Post intensity scene on the Eagle Glacier:

Eric Flora and Coda making sure things run smoothly:

Knute and Lex cruising in classic. Most of the classic skiing during the week was spent on "zero" skis.

Knute striding up the big climb back to home base.

Eagle glacier ridgeline:


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Packrafts!

Holy cow, packrafts are awesome. The Yukon Elite Squad just invested in these boats and after putting them to the test for three days in the wilderness it's safe to say they were a good purchase. They roll up nice and small, weigh less than six pounds and they can handle whitewater, flatwater, wind, waves and rocks. The three day trip started out easy: south winds to blow us down a chain of lakes, fish to be caught and trapping trails to follow. The second day saw 20km of hiking: lots of climbing, bushwhacking and scouting for sheep. Newborn lambs were playing on cliffs in the sun, bands of rams were roaming distant mountains and moose and caribou were out and about in the buckbrush watching their calves closely. The second day ended with a long, nasty piece of bush-walking down to the river that was our ticket back to the car. Even the night before the last day, we knew making it out to the car in one day would be tough. A stretch of 60km of unknown water lay in front of us. There's nothing on the internet about the river, no descriptions in guidebooks and no accounts from previous trips. In other words, it was a long day of unknowns. The river is silty, brown and shallow. Rocks lie unseen inches below the surface, sweepers jump out at you at nearly every turn in the river and gravel bars leave you bumping and grinding down a lot of sections. We were low on food and ran out entirely halfway through the last day.
The steeply graded and boulder strewn sections of river made for a tough job trying to keep the rafts unpunctured as we bounced off of rocks, trees and gravel. Moose were omnipresent the entire day. We had a half dozen encounters with cow moose and their calves, often at a distance too close for comfort. A bison stomped across the river just in front of us, obviously surprised at our intrusion into it's home. After 6 hours in the rafts, a bend in the river revealed the charred trees of a forest fire from the previous year. We decided to take a gander for Morel mushrooms, the prized fungus that grows only in soils that have been burnt in the previous few years. To our surprise, the forest floor was covered in them! after a short time, we had filled any remaining space in our packs with morels and were back on the river heading for home. By the time the river spat us out at our take-out it was late. We'd been on the river for nearly fourteen hours, were soaking wet for most of that time and hadn't eaten the last half of the day.
There will no doubt be more adventures with the rafts in the months to come.

Sailing the rafts with a tarp and paddles.

Trolling for lake trout while sailing.

Lake Trout!

Portaging is easy with packrafts!

Evening paddle post-dinner.

Lambs and ewes on a rocky cliff.

BIG antlers shed from bull moose in the alpine.

There's some monster bulls out there.

This bull looked like it met an untimely end. All that was left of it was part of it's spine, skull, a few ribs and some fur. Best guess: wolves hamstrung it sometime last fall or winter, waited for it to die and then fed on it until it was gone.


The river at last! Camp the second night was on the island in the middle of the river.

Partway through the morning of hard paddling.

Getting water from one of the few clear creeks in the area.

Morels!

Scouting a section of quick, rocky water towards the end of the last day.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Old Crow

A few weeks after the end of a winter full of training, racing and skiing the Yukon Elite Squad found itself in Old Crow with ski gear in hand. The trip came about as a collaboration with Air North. The idea of running a ski program in Old Crow hasn't disappeared since Father Mouchet and the TEST program left the home of the Van Tat Gwitchin. There have been a few programs started over the years by Yukoners Philippe Mouchet (Father Mouchet's nephew), Dave Brook and Jane Vincent. TEST and the subsequent ski programs recognized the primary values of a ski program in Old Crow: Having fun on skis, getting kids active, giving kids a healthy way to get out on the land and teaching the value of training and hard work. We planned this trip based on those values and by all counts it was a success!

When we arrived we found the old trails were still there, still marked and still possible to be packed and groomed for skiing. We did some old-school packing (snowshoeing) on some of the trails before it was possible to pack them.


In the ski lodge we found a treasure trove of Yukon Ski History including old training guidelines, a roller board from a few decades ago and pictures from the old TEST program. Glenna Frost (now Tetlichi) is on the far left of the photo, Father Mouchet is in the centre back row, Rudy Sudrich is back row between Father and Kirk Potter. Also in the picture are former Yukon Ski Team athletes Logan Potter, Heidi Brook and Fabian Brook. Knute is in there too, see if you can spot him!



Once we had the trails packed, we tested them out by skijoring! thanks to Dana for letting us use the dogs.

After that, it was time to ski, we had more than a dozen kids from 5 years old to 16 years old skiing almost every day for a week!

We had a few rollerboard contests in the ski lodge, it still works well after all these years!


Through fortunate timing, Philippe Mouchet was in Old Crow at the same time we were. The purpose of his visit was a little more somber than ours, but it was very much tied to our trip. If you have connections to the Yukon ski community, you probably know that Father Mouchet passed away last fall. Philippe Mouchet, Father's nephew, took on the task of holding a memorial service in memory of Father in Old Crow, the place Father spent the prime of his life and the place where his legacy lives the strongest. The memorial service took place on Crow Mountain:

'Father used to watch us run to the top of Crow Mountain in rubber boots. He'd go to the top and watch us with binoculars to make sure we weren't stopping to eat blueberries!'

-Glenna Tetlichi, former TEST athlete

Knute skiing on the windpacked skidoo trail up Crow Mountain

Philippe carrying the Urn with Father's ashes up Crow Mountain

Former TEST athletes and members of the community make their way to the top of Crow Mountain for the memorial service.

One of the three final resting places of Father Mouchet. The other two are in Father's hometown in France and in Whitehorse.

Hiking to the top.

The Urn that once held the ashes is in turn cremated. Allan Frostad and Philippe designed the cross/ski tracks combination

Melayna and Percilla skied down Crow Mountain with us after the memorial

Part of our goal for the week was to be creative with skiing and how we taught it. This led to some activities that probably won't be found in "Jackrabbit" programs any time soon:

Percilla with a snowshoe hare caught in a snare. We set a number of snares a few days before on another ski. The kids helped to snare 3 hares which turned into snowshoe hare stew the next night.

Archery Biathlon. 

Dana showing the kids how to skin and clean a hare.

Bravos and cross country skiing! Teryn getting pulled by Percilla.

Sunny skiing on the Porcupine River

Playing games on the lake behind town.

A new fashion craze?

Knute skiing with the crew.

A huge thanks is in order to the people that made this possible. Thanks to the Gwitchin people and the community of Old Crow for welcoming us and making us feel at home. Thanks to the kids who came out and strapped on skinny skis every day, you're all awesome! Thanks to Dana Tizya-Tramm who gave us a place to live for the week and for all the work he put in making sure things ran smoothly. Finally, thanks to Air North for flying us up to Old Crow and for supporting us year-round.