Sunday, March 20, 2005 - Perspective
Fairbanks Road Report

- By: Sara Renner

Birds fly south in fall and Cross Country skiers head north. Every November, a snow searching pilgrimage brings Nordic keeners to Alaska. The migration involves both the young and the speedy, and the old and the improving. The Canadian Women and the American team travel to Fairbanks, along with thirty master skiers from below the 49 parallel, to get an early start to the competitive season. The young will end the three weeks of training with the first race of the year- a Continental Cup.

Past visits have been a shock to the system. Inhaling fresh air upon arrival would freeze our unsuspecting nose hairs, and send us back inside the airport in search of hats, scarves, balaclavas, mitts, earmuffs and long johns. Now we come prepared for cold weather. Fairbanks is an hour drive from the Arctic Circle and even closer to Santaís workshop. On a clear day Mt. McKinley is visible poking through the distant Alaskan mountain range. The days are short and in the middle of the winter the sun barely makes it over the horizon.

For the last two weeks, temperatures have mysteriously hovered around zero degrees. The grass is green, snow is melting and snowmobiling is questionable. The locals are confused. Nordic residents say they have never used klister on their skis before April and that it is not abnormal to be minus forty in November. The usual racing trails are out of commission but luckily the snow has held at the University ski trails.

Downhill racers get perky at the prospect of icy tracks. In the absence of metal edges, we end up slipping around like Bambi on ice. Finding a location that consistently has perfect early season snow, good terrain and grooming capabilities is almost as difficult as finding a man who works around the house, occasionally cooks and cleans, who has a job, makes you laugh and is good in bed. Luckily, I have one area covered so I am optimistic about getting snow.

Despite the trouble we are having in getting the weatherman to cooperate, Fairbanks is always memorable. Of all the places we travel, it has the friendliest folk. The highlight of our trip was an invitation to a feast at Auden and Sally Endestadís, both local Olympians in Cross Country Skiing and Road Cycling, respectively. They live in a cabin in the woods with their two little kids. The coat rack is a moose antler. One has to be careful not to be put in a compromising position by a bear claw that is, naturally, attached to a bear hide and makes a cozy chair. Martha Stewart would be weak in the knees. This year we ate moose meatball, salmon, halibut, big horned sheep and black bear. Our host is both a hiking and hunting guide and provided all of the game that we ate. This menu is standard fare for outdoorsy Alaskans.

The first races are scheduled to go off this weekend in Fairbanks and our first World Cup competition in northern Finland is two weeks away. Some Alaskans think that our success at last years Olympics is connected with what we ate for dinner. Who knows, but Iíll have seconds.

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