Homer Alaska - Sports

Story last updated at 3:56 PM on Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Women's Nordic group gears up for season of skiing, socializing

By Angelina Skowronski
For the Homer News


Photo provided

Jasmine Fry, Diana Carbonell and Stephanie Anderson do chin-ups as they prepare for the ski season. This year the Homer Women's Nordic Group will focus on long-distance races.

With snow accumulating on Sadie Cove Mountain and the Homer bluff turning amber and gold, members of the the Homer Women's Nordic Group are retrieving their dusty skis out from under even dustier snow shovels. The end of one season is always the beginning of another.

"This year we are going to try to focus on long-distance races as a group. There are always a few women who do them on their own, but we want to get everyone racing these type of races so that we can support each other," said Megan Spurkland, the group's organizer. Spurkland is one of 19 Professional Ski Instructors of America-certified ski instructors in the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club.

The big endurance goal for the group is the Susitna 100 in mid-February, a 100-mile run, bike, or ski ultra-race around Mount Susitna area where athletes must self-support for the long haul through the tundra. Last year's winner in the female ski category came in at 21 hours and 12 minutes. The Susitna 100 is also coupled with the Little Su which is a 50K race held the same weekend.

"It takes a while for your body to get used to long distances," said Spurkland.

Another idea cooking in members' heads is to host their own race right here in Homer.

"With the many miles of groomed Nordic trails, it just makes sense. But instead of a race we are calling it an event, a community event, so that people can go fast or slow and not feel the pressure that comes with racing," said Kathy Sarns-Irwin, a member of the group.

Sarns-Irwin describes the women's Nordic group as "a bunch of women who want to train and stay in shape, but are more social than anything."

"It's not just about racing," said Sarns-Irwin.

In addition to the group's regular season, the Kachemak Nordic Ski club also is offering repeats of women's beginner clinics starting in December and new co-ed intermediate clinics starting in late January.

"The Saturday beginner clinics are geared toward anyone who has never been on skis, and will focus on being comfortable in the environment and learning how to balance," said Spurkland.

The co-ed intermediate clinics will be technique intensive with focuses being VI, VII, and VII alternate.

"I am really excited for the intermediate clinics because it will allow the people who don't have time for our training groups to come out and participate," said Spurkland.

Not to forget about the young Olympians, the Nordic Juniors, in its 12th year, also will be taking off.

Carlin Rauch started working with the Nordic Junior as a parent volunteer when her son was a wee ski-shuffler. She is now five-year veteran as the head coach for Junior Nordic, as well as a member of the women's Nordic group.

"Like the Women's Nordic, the Junior Nordic is not a competition-based program, we focus on having fun," said Rauch.

Last year the junior league rallied almost 100 4-to-13-year-olds in the area, and the hope is at least the same number this season. With high enrollment each year, the Junior Nordic is the root for the success and strength of the middle school Nordic program in Homer.

Rauch said, "We make Nordic skiing fun for the kids so by the time they get to the junior high level, they want to continue skiing and eventually start competing."

No Junior Nordic finale is complete without a good obstacle course for the young athletes to test their skill levels learned. Equipped with hula hoops, bean bag tosses and other creative activities, the kids get a day of carnival mixed with a day of skiing.

"For the ski festival, the kids are challenging themselves against the terrain as opposed to challenging each other, and I love seeing them enjoy the sport as they progress," Rauch said.

For more information on the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club and its programs, go to www.kachemaknordicskiclub.org.

The Homer Women's Nordic is already holding pre-season practices Monday through Friday and Sunday from 11a.m.-1 p.m. at various locations in Homer. To sign up for pre-season practices, contact Spurkland at megancorazza@hotmail.com.

The registration deadline for Beginner's Clinics is Dec. 5. Only a maximum of 40 participants will be able to attend. Cost is $100 plus KNSC membership fees for all four Saturday clinics. Clinic dates are Dec. 10, Dec 17, Jan. 7 and Jan. 14.

Registration deadline for Intermediate Clinics is Jan. 1. Clinic dates are Jan. 28, Feb. 4 and Feb. 11. Cost is $75 plus KNSC membership fees for all three Saturdays.

Early registration deadline for Nordic Juniors is Jan. 1. Cost is $15 per child, plus KNSC membership fees. After Jan. 1, late registration is $25 per child. Parents are encouraged to sign up for volunteer roles.

Have the motivation, but don't have the skis? The Homer Ski Swap will be held Nov. 16 at Homer High School starting at 6:30 p.m. Arrive early to get the good picks.

Angelina Skowronski is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.