Alaska – Alyeska – Day 4 and 5 (Avoiding repetitive redundancy)Posted: March 26, 2013
Video link of the Cook Inlet (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZqW8AV7CtE)
In an effort to not beat a dead horse (you get it. We skied) I am going to consolidate the last few days. Saturday and Tuesday I spent in Anchorage. It’s, to say the very least, a unique city. Sprawling, vast, populous, and seemingly unaware of it. Frankly the only thing that truly reminded me of a larger city was the traffic. There are over 300,000 people living in Anchorage, which is about 40% of the entire population of
Alaska. The city became important during the ’30’s and 50’s as an air transportation hub and grew to what it is today largely for that reason. While it is primarily white population, I was amazed by the diversity. I met people from all regions of the world. More than once people told me they were also from Wisconsin, and those who weren’t said, “Oh, you’re from Madison. Where is the other city in Wisconsin?”, meaning Milwaukee of course. Talk about getting an outsiders perspective on where you live. The hotel Josh and I stayed at had two very cheery and amenable native women working the desk and when we got to our room someone had taken all the batteries out of the remotes (classy) so we called the smiling clerks. They sent a man who I believe was from Japan with batteries. Anchorage doesn’t strike you as a large city but rather a bunch of mid-sized cities clustered very close together.
The people are friendly and move at a glacial pace. Everyone speaks slowly and wants to chat. I deposited a check at the bank and it took nearly twenty minutes. Not because the teller wasn’t good at her job. She just wanted to talk about anything and everything. We stopped at information center, where a very classy and distinguished woman gave me vague landmark based directions to local artist galleries. Josh and I did find a charming local artist’s store just down the road called Sevigny Studio where I got a beautiful matted print reinterpreting a local mount called The Sleeping Lady.
I attribute their pace of life to being at the mercy of the elements so often. It’s hard to get road rage at an avalanche. The music is blend of hippie and southern and all the cars are big tired and four-wheel drive. I even saw a Saturn sedan with a three-foot lift kit. Overall I really liked it there, but I would have a very tough time slowing down to match pace. Anchorage was wonderful place to visit, but I’m not sure I would want to live there.
The final days on the hill had our group thinning. The conditions on Sunday were quite nice, but most of the great snow had been chewed up. We were also fatigued and slowly but surely the Stizmark claimed more and more of us. Josh, Kelly, Brandt, and I finished at the average time and met Byron who had decided to catch up with friends after lunch at the Sitzmark rather than go back out on the hill. We sat and drank and chatted. They began clearing the main dining area for a bag toss tournament. Awesome. By the time we left Josh’s Jeep was the only vehicle left in the lot. He and our D.D. jumped in and since it was loaded with gear Brandt and I walked the few blocks back to the house. I was beat and fell asleep sitting up on the couch. Josh wasn’t going to stand for it and roused me with left over pizza from Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria we had bought earlier. If you are ever in Anchorage, check that place out. Great great ‘za, they brew their own beer, and since everyone knows beer tastes best straight from the tap, they sell half-gallon growlers to go. Just great.
Eventually we succumbed to the sand man.
On the last day, most of the snowboarders had left for Minnesota and only the skiers remained. Byron, Brandt, and Kelly had to catch a flight back to their respective homes and I flew out the next day. We gathered up our gear and cleaned up the house. The owner called Jackson and let him know we didn’t have to be out at the normal time since there was no one coming in after us. So great, and we had that much more time to fix the disarray a dozen guys create in a few days. To be honest Josh did most of it. He took Kelly and I to the hill and went back to house to play taxi for our other compadres and finish picking up. The power had gone out that morning and when Kelly and I got inside the shop there was a line wrapping around the bend since the computers were down. The night before the kind employees of Alyeska Resort had taken my rental skis off the racks outside the chalet before I came down from the Sitzmark. I became concerned I would not be able to get my skis since there were so many people waiting to rent. I walked up to one of the aimless listless employees at the rental counter and explained what had happened. Lucky for me they weren’t able to check them back in because of the power outage. They made sure my boot still fit and handed them back over. Hurrah silver lining. The lifts obviously weren’t working without power, but by the time Kelly and I suited up, it was just a fifteen minute wait and off we went one more time into the fray.
It was what everyone called a “blue bird day”, which in skiing terms seems to mean it is lovely out. Why they call it this I don’t know. I did not see any blue birds. It is possible blue birds are inverse vampires who only can come out in sunlight. In any case it was gorgeous. On the southface the ungroomed runs were pretty chewed up and rough so Kelly and I kept to the groomers and northface. It was fun to ski the groomers after spending so much time on more intense back country and double blacks. You could lean back and cruise. According to my sport tracker app Kelly and I were reaching speeds of around sixty miles an hour. Two sticks and gravity. Who woulda thought. We skied at a leisurely pace and enjoyed our final looks at the majestic scenery surrounding us. Once our legs were worn through, we went back to the
Sitzmark one last time for one last beer while we waited for Josh to come and shuttle us to Anchorage.
Kelly and Brandt said their good byes and headed to the airport. Josh had just moved to Anchorage and had not a stick of furniture in his wood floored apartment. That was not going to cut the mustard after a week or so of hard skiing, so we hopped in the car and headed over to the America’s Best Value Inn Executive Suite Hotel. I know, someone really likes adjectives. The room was cheap and neat. The bathroom fan was annoyingly louder than a jet engine and the TVs (two) were bolted down 19″ console boxes, but beds were in separate rooms giving privacy and guaranteed a solid night’s sleep. Not to shabby for about $30 a person. The next day we went on a short hike close to Josh’s apartment and meandered around Anchorage looking for moose, a common sight in the city, but of course when you are looking for something you never seem to find it. Interesting fact about moose: More people are killed every year by moose than bears. They are not friendly and will charge you. If that should happen try to get behind a tree and they will probably lose track of you since they have poor eyesight. We did however see some reindeer in someone’s yard. It appeared they were being kept there as pets. I ate my final Alaskan meal at Gwennie’s Old Alaska Restaurant, another place you need to try if you are ever up there. Then it was to the airport for the red eye flight. Happily the fight is shorter on the way back largely because of jet-steams, but also impart due of the rotation of the earth. Also, the movies were free on the way back. Go Delta! Jackson picked me up in St. Paul about 6 am and we went back to his house and I crashed out until 1 PM.
All and in all just a wonderful trip and I highly recommend going to Alaska for the view, the people, and most of all the skiing. Unparallelled.
Drive fast, take chances, and thanks for reading.