Homer Alaska - Sports

Story last updated at 9:02 PM on Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Skiing is complete exercise for body, mind, spirit

By Lindsay Johnson
Staff Writer

Editor's note: This is the ninth in a series of stories aimed at providing tips and encouraging southern Kenai Peninsula residents to improve and maintain their physical well-being during the darkest part of the year.


Lindsay Johnson

It's healthy to be one with your environment, but connecting to the outdoors can be an uncomfortable proposition in the cold, dark north. One way to enjoy the snow and topography of Alaska's winter landscapes is skiing. Whether you go cross-country, backcountry or downhill, you'll get a natural high from sliding on snow, which can keep you up all season long.

"Quite honestly it is the most accommodating way to be outside and get fresh air in Homer, no matter what type of skiing you're doing," said Jan Spurkland, a ski coach and fisherman.

While each method has its own specific benefits, all skiing offers mental and physical benefits. Some practitioners even claim spiritual enlightenment.

"Getting out in the peak of the day is a form of moving meditation in a way. The mental and the physical benefits are equal," said Leslie Klaar, an avid cross-country skier.

It can be easy to let the day slip away with you inside, but getting out, especially during limited daylight hours, provides a noticeable boost to outlook and health.

There's no place like outside for getting fresh air, a substance that cleans lungs and mind like nothing else known to humans. And skiing, whether on a tree-lined trail or atop a sunny ridge, is an ideal way to pump fresh air and blood while soaking up sunlight. The fresh air, natural light, blood circulation combination enhances body awareness, mental focus and alertness.

Skiing can be a total body workout, too, and is adaptable to every age group.

All methods build leg strength and overall balance. Cross-country and backcountry touring add a hearty cardiovascular element and arm strengthening with very low impact on joints. Just being active in cold temperatures burns more calories than working out indoors.

Even if your body isn't in top form, using it to get out and enjoy life is a major step toward optimal health. There's not much better motivation to do those lunges than the burn you feel at the bottom of a long run, or to stick with your cardio and diet plans when you're heaving up a hill, or yo up your overall training routine when your mom or little brother is skiing faster than you.

Skiing is a sport that can be enjoyed individually or with a group. Regardless of who you go out with, skiing builds community.

"We've managed to create a series of trails and access points where everybody can get their needs met for getting outside in the winter. That's been our goal, to make it easy for people to get outside," said Kenton Bloom, a member of the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club who coaches youth in Nordic skiing and also enjoys downhill and ski mountaineering.

There are over 70 kilometers of groomed trails above town and out East End Road.

The Ohlson Mountain Rope tow, your friendly neighborhood downhill ski area, is open nearly every Sunday, offering lots of laps for very little money and travel time.

With classic skis, telemark or alpine touring gear you don't need a trail or a designated ski area to start sliding to health. If you are smart about avalanche danger, route finding and property owners, you can find a good time anywhere there's snow.

Besides the abundant options around Homer, there is a tremendous amount of skiable terrain on the other side of Kachemak Bay and up the road in Turnagain Pass and around Seward.

Tom Klinker said he likes all aspects of skiing.

"It's fun and it's healthy," he said.

It doesn't get much better than that.