Hans's Hype

Hans Hill shares his thoughts on nordic skiing in the Valley.

Thank you to the Light the Susitna donors & our many volunteers

posted Apr 2, 2016, 9:11 PM by Tammy Hill   [ updated Apr 2, 2016, 9:14 PM ]

Light the Susitna Fundraiser

Recently the Mat-Su Borough Assembly approved the Government Peak Recreation Area trail lighting project, fully funding the entire project that will provide lighting for the entire trail system. Prior to assembly approval, the MSSC pledged $25,000 towards the inclusion of the Susitna Loop in the project scope to show the Borough our commitment to the GPRA trails. Due to the scheduling and short time window, the Club began an after-the-fact fundraising campaign.

To say that I have been overwhelmed by the response to the fundraiser is an understatement. We knew that the community supports our sport and it has been proven by its financial support. So a huge thank you to our donors:

Abby & Lila Pettit 

AK Sheas 

Alaska Safe Trails 

Amaya and Katalina Vizzerra 

Anesthesia Care Associates

Anjanette & Zack Steer 

Ashley Wise 

Backcountry Bike & Ski

Bilafer Family 

Bob & Carol Thompson

Branden & Sydney Thielke 

Brent Taylor, MD 

Brian, Wendy, Evan and Lewis Taylor


Chad and Jenny Nugent Family 

Chris & Kathleen Jones 

Christal Houghtelling Photography 

Cold River Construction Company

Darren & Nancy Black 

Daryl Farrens 

David Freer

David L Barnes DO PC 

Dori McDannold 

Elizabeth & Ed Ripley 

Gabe Black

Glynn & Ed Strabel 

Guinevere Hill 

Harmon Family 

Hobbit Environmental Consulting Corp. 

Jakab Family

Joe & Sandy Moore

John Breiby

Johnson Family

Karen Hopp 

Kim Elliott 

Livingston Slone 

Lorene & Larry Lynn 

Lucas Parker 

Luff Orthodontics 

Lydia Yocum 

Make'N Ends Meet 

Matanuska Valley Federal Credit Union 

Mat-Su Junior Nordics 

Michael Norton

Mikael Porcello 

Monte & Jerilyn Burtch 


Natalie, Chris & Alex Cadieux

Nicole & Chris Whittington-Evans 

Norton-Cruz Family Fund

Pagel children 

Randee Johnson 

Sheri and Dave Musgrave 

The Barry Family 

The Danz Family

The Henderson Family

The Jerman Family 

The Lake Family 

The LaRousse Family 

The Merritt Family 

The Moffat Family 

The Paulick Family 

The Powder Family 

The Skvorc Family 

The Stamoolis Family

The Suarez-Cabal Family 

The Wraith Family

The Wreyford Family 

Tom and Lisa Smayda

Tracy Houser 

Trenton Harter 

Tricia and John Cox 

Virginia White 

Walling Family 

Wasilla Lights Farm 

Winnestaffer Family 

And many anonymous donors 

Thank you all for your generous support. It is people like you who make me feel proud to be involved with such a great club.

For those who may have missed our flyers and emails, and are interested in supporting the cause, please visit the website to make a contribution. We will continue running the fundraiser in to summer.

So here’s to next season’s lit trails, you all helped make it happen. Thank you again! 

Volunteers Make This Our Best Season for Junior Nordics – Dave Musgrave

It took quite a lot of work to wrangle the 350 kids that participated in Junior Nordics this year. Besides the numbers, we also had a couple other “firsts” this year.

This was our first year of a mid-day session for kids that are home-schooled. Not only was it her first year of coaching, but Coach Carolyn Barry did a great job as head coach of this group.

We had our first year of a competition group that trained together during the regular JN sessions, and also raced in the Besh Cup series across Alaska. Thanks goes out to Coach Sydney Thielke who started the competition group during the summer and continued coaching through the JN Season. All reports are that they had a great time competing and meeting other kids from other communities.

This would not be possible without the numerous volunteers especially our coaches: Aubrey Spangler, Mike Wilson, Joe Moore, Bailey LaRousse, Annika Hanestad, Carolyn Barry, Christian Hanestad, Kathleen Jones, Christie Marvin, Mikael Porcello, Ted Sipos, Mike Shea, Jillian Morrissey, Brian Winnestaffer, Wade Erickson, Tom Smayda, Anjanete Steer, Rhett Buchanan, Steven Merrit, Jordyn and Bella Block, Robyn Hall, Mike Norton, Megan Danz, Lucas Parker, Greg Ravencraft, Ed Strabel, Brent Taylor, Sydney Thielke, Dan Jenkins, and Maritt Youngblood. The adult sweeps and Chalet monitors have been great and have kept our kids safe and all accounted for, most of the time. Mark Stigar is the head coach on Tuesday and Thursdays. Thanks to Carolyn Barry and him for the extra effort it takes in preparation for their sessions.

And we are extremely fortunate to have a great Steering Committee that puts together the schedule, came up with new ideas, and implemented the whole thing as if by magic. Thanks to Carolyn Barry, Nancy Black, Maritt Youngblood, Peggy Kristich, Tammy Sipos, Paula Werner, Rick Benedict, and Teresa Clemmer. And a special thanks goes to Rebecca Buchanan, who orders the t-shirts, arranges for coaches’ gifts, takes all the end-of-season photos, and performs other miracles too numerous to mention.

This is our sixth year of Mat-Su Junior Nordics and we have come a long way from a dozen kids skiing in the school yard at Shaw Elementary. Personally, Junior Nordics has become the best part of my week as I see the kids out enjoying themselves and learning to have fun on skis outdoors in the winter. The progression in skiing skills that the kids make each season is truly inspiring.

I want to express how much I am touched by the passion that our community of parents, coaches, and kids bring to Junior Nordics.

Junior Nordics, Junior Nordics….Let’s Go Ski!

Our Great Groomers

How do you make snowflakes that landed in December into skiable trails in March? Lots and lots of grooming hours. Between Government Peak and Archangel Valley, our grooming team has spent nearly 500 hours pulling drags and the like to make the Valley trails the hotspot for nordic skiing in Southcentral. Our group of groomers includes:

Gene Backus

Jeff Kase

Darren Black

Chris Jones

Mark Strabel

Ed Strabel

Mark Stigar

Zack Steer

Ashley Wise

From the start of this season, over 2,000 miles of snow has been pounded into submission for our enjoyment and the volunteers above are the individuals we have to thank. On behalf of the Club’s board of directors and all of the Club’s members, thank you for the great season.

Offseason Projects

While it is sad to say our season is coming to an end, the MSSC has plans to keep improving our trails. Plans include trail maintenance and trail expansion… and as usual, we will be seeking volunteers to assist in these projects. Plans are still in the works, but we will be sending our emails and updating the website with times and locations for volunteering opportunities. If you need additional motivation to help out, what better way to stay in shape than some manual labor. Look forward to seeing everyone out there.

A letter from the President

posted Feb 17, 2016, 12:55 PM by Tammy Hill   [ updated Feb 17, 2016, 12:58 PM ]

With all the political ads and constant barrage of political pundits trying to tell you who the next POTUS will be, I feel compelled to add to the noise and reach out to all our members and those enjoying what the Valley has to offer this winter, to write about our recent fund raising efforts.  If you are on our email list, you most undoubtedly received an email From the MSSC informing you of our efforts to “Light the Susitna.”

For those who missed out on the mailer, here is a brief overview.  With funding from a Mat-Su Health Foundation grant, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough has solicited bids to have trail lighting installed for all trails at Government Peak Recreation Area, approximately 6.5 km.  Borough staff had hoped that the grant funding would suffice for this lofty goal, but upon opening of the bids it was realized that the price for the entire trail system exceed the grant funds by approximately $100,000.  Without additional funding, the Susitna Trail would not be lit as a part of this project.

The MSSC board members recognized the opportunity the MSB had created to help transform the Valley skiing experience substantially and as such, decided to pledge $25,000 towards the lighting of the Susitna Trail.  This amount represents a significant amount of the MSSC’s funds. 

Which brings us to the fund rising; because the board members felt that this project was such an important project for the our skiing community, we hoped that others would agree and help the Club recover some, if not all, of the pledged amount.

When I first arrived in the Valley and began skiing with the Junior Nordics on the Colony High School Trails in 1993, the kids and instructors relied on two light poles to conduct practice under, which ultimately left us skiing on less than 1.5 km of trail, where we could “just about” make out the trail outline in the deep winter months.  With the arrival of the GPRA trails in 2013, the MSSC lit a portion of trails adjacent to the parking area to help facilitate Junior Nordics and well, just being able to put on ones skis…  These lights represented the first light in twenty years, to have been erected on ski trails.

To put it bluntly, the trail lighting project is as exciting of news as the original construction of the trails at GPRA.  Personally, being one of the Monday-through-Friday 8-5 worker bees, the opportunity to ski after work without headlight…priceless.  Beyond my own personal gains from this development, the opportunity that this affords the Club, i.e. night lessons, evening races, etc., allows the MSSC to entice even more skiers and members, which is good for our community.

At the moment I write this, having only two weeks for fund raising, we have received a great response to this effort.  To this I thank all those who have contributed.  It is members like you who help make our community great.

It is my hope that when this month’s Nordic Skier reaches you, that the MSB will have announced the award of the entire GPRA trail lighting project.  To which I can literally say, I will “see” you on the trails next season.


Another successful Junior Nordics Season

The end of season Junior Nordic party occurs on March 5th, can you can be sure that no willing Junior Nordic Kiddo will be missing out.  The program continues to be a growing success with enrollment growing by leaps and bounds every season.  But with that, our need for coaches grows too.  Thankfully, we continue to have great volunteer coaches every year.  Thank you very much Coaches, I know the kids appreciate it too!


JN’s lines up for a day time race – Dave Musgrave


A JN participate gets to try out the Skiku electronic biathalon rifle – Photo Courtesy of Skiku Biathalon       



With the deadline of the Permanent Fund fast approaching, it seems a poignant time to remind everyone that the Mat-Su Ski Club has enrolled in the Pick.Click.Give program, an easy way to support your favorite Valley Ski Club.  More details may be found on our website, www.matsuski.org .

A Race to the Outhouse #2

To be honest, this winter has been…how should I say…mediocre.  But between GPRA and Hatcher Pass, the Valley has provided relief for those who have searched for skiable snow.  Archangel Valley has provided the goods in recent weeks, which may have led you to ponder “why don’t they do a race out here?”  And if so, the answer is Yes,  there is a race Archangel Valley road; a race that allows the opportunity to ski as fast as you can to an outhouse, without needing any real reason, if you catch my drift.  Provided the ski conditions allow, the race is on April 5,  which should provide a nice cap to your ski racing season.  No TP required…

Icicle Double - The Next Big Thing

posted Jan 20, 2016, 10:27 PM by Tammy Hill

Photographer: Ashley Wise

I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to be on the front end of something big; to be at the infancy of a great creation.  For example, Steve Jobs sitting in his garage with friends, staring at foundation of what would become one of largest computer companies in the world. Did Jobs know what was to come?  To come back around to something more relevant, did the Nordics Ski Association of Anchorage know what the Tour of Anchorage would become back in 1988, with racers only totaling 10% of the competitors who race now?

These were a few of my thoughts as I stood at the finish line of this season’s Icicle Double.  For those unfamiliar, the Icicle Double is the MSSC’s premier race at the Government Peak Recreation Area, with distance options ranging from 5 to 30 km in classic the first day and freestyle the second.  Racer’s get to experience the full beauty of GPRA, in some cases, multiple instances, as they cruising through the Matanuska and Susitna Loops. The race then concludes in the stadium area below the newly constructed chalet, where I was strategically placed as timing volunteer.

With no self-congratulatory intent, the event has received the support from some great volunteers, with their numbers approaching one for every two racers.  Volunteers included racing types and those who didn’t even ski, just showed up to enjoy being an active spectator.  It truly makes for a miraculously ran event, and this shows in the response of the racers themselves.  I have never been thanked so much, nor have I seen volunteers shown as much appreciation as I witnessed at this year’s event.  But then again, this may be a testament to the caliber of the competitors as well.

The competitors this year ran the gamut; from college team athletes to single digit aged youngins racing their first 5km, with dad following just behind for moral support.  The best I could describe it is this: it is a family friendly event with just enough competition to keep one racing honestly. 

But as great as the competitors and volunteers are, the crown jewel of the race is the venue.  Located at the base of Hatcher Pass, with Government Peak in the background and the entire Matanuska valley spread-out below, one would be hard pressed to find a better spot to hold a race.  While the trails hold spectacular vistas, its true secret rests in a basic requirement for all nordic races, snow.  GPRA has proven time and time again to have the snow when others in southcentral may be without.  That’s not to say the area can withstand all El Nino can throw at it, but it has provided great conditions with the help of MSSC’s great grooming staff.

So to you volunteers, thank you, and to you competitors, thank you as well.  You all have made a great event this season.  Time will tell, but the Icicle Double might just be the next big thing (race).  And while it may be a little early for promotion, the MSSC has already set the date for the 2016 Icicle Double,  December 30 and 31, just the right thing to do to close out the year.  Details to come this fall… so the question is to You, do you want to be part of the next big thing?

Junior Nordic Coaches Spotlight

A new section we have decided to add is our spotlight on Junior Nordic Coaches.  This month we get the opportunity to know Sydney Thielke in his own words:

“I grew up skiing in Homer, AK.  I started Besh Cups as a J4 and kept ski racing through high school, where I also focused my attention on biathlon. I did not ski in college but got reinvolved in 2007 after we moved to Lander, Wy.  There, I was the president of the biathlon club and also on the local ski association board of directors for four years.  After moving back to Alaska I was very excited to get involved with Mat-Su Junior Nordic and subsequently middle school racing through ANR.  I am very excited to be part of the community here and so greatful for everything MSSC and MSJN does to support skiing in the valley.”

Thank you Sydney for all you do in making our sport even better.


Nordic Skiing – Valley Style

Have you been enjoying the great skiing at Government Peak Recreation Area and Archangel Road this winter?  It was made possible by the intrepid groomers from the Mat-Su Ski Club: Ed, Ashley, Chris, Mark and Mark.  If you have been taking advantage of the best overall skiing in our area of Southcentral now would be the time to join the MSSC and purchase a trail pin to help keep the tracks coming.  Trail Pins go towards our trailing grooming efforts, so show your pride in the Valley trails.

You can do so by going to www.matsuski.org.

Happy Skiing and Think Snow

Serenity Falls Overnight Hut Trip

What if I was to tell you there is an event that grants you a tour of  Eklutna Lake with an overnight in a heated cabin, without having you carrying your gear on your back, how much would you pay for something like this?  $500? $200?  $100?  What if I told you all this could be yours for the price of a couple lattes?  Well that is just what MSSC is over this coming spring break.

Take a grand scenic tour of Eklutna Lake back to Serenity Falls Hut.  Prior to the trip, the twelve miles of trail will be groomed for enjoyable tour skiing.  The day of, the group will meet with the trailhead where all the groups gear will be transferred to the snowmachine to be transferred to the cabin, allowing for inhibited skiing all the way through.   For details email the club at info@matsuski.org


Calendar of Events

Feb 02             MSSC Board of Director’s Meeting, at GPRA 6:30PM

Feb 07             Mat-Su Ski for Women, GPRA 11:30AM

Mar 05             Junior Nordics end of year party, GPRA 12:00PM

Mar 12-13       Serenity Falls Cabin Overnight

Apr 02             Race to the Outhouse #2, Location TBD

Around the Valley

posted Jan 20, 2016, 10:15 PM by Tammy Hill

Something I have been caught saying in recent years is this; one of my favorite sightings on the trails is families.  Sure the great views and fresh snow top out my best thing of Government Peak Recreation area, but what always makes me smile is a parent or parents out with their kids.  Half the time the family are newcomers to the sport and just out enjoying what I take for granted.  As I have written before, I recently became a parent and it truly spun my perspective around, for skiing and every other worldly thing.  Having not grownup nor spent much time caring for mini-humans, things that I was completely oblivious of are now all too apparent.

“No Hans, 10 months is way too early for skis,” said my Wife.  “Well, he’s gotta ski before he can walk,” said I.  “I think you have that backwards hun….”

Originally I enjoyed seeing families getting after it on the ski trails because it was all too obvious they were having fun.  But now, beyond that reason, I appreciate it even more because I have a sliver of insight into how much effort went into their ski outing. 

Pre-kiddo my wife and I were at the trailhead inside of twenty minutes after leaving work.  Post-kiddo  we are lucky to make it out before the next full moon.  Who knew how long it takes to dress a baby in outdoors clothes?  And why can’t socks stay on their feet? 

Nevertheless, our club has prospered by being a family oriented group.  It has grown on the backs (literally) of many engaged families and our 300+ Junior Nordic skiers is proof of this concept.  

So buddle up those children and hit the trails.  It might just get me to tow this pulk around for one more lap.



Mat-Su Ski Club Board member Gene Backus is this month’s “Groomer of The Month”. Gene is 62 ski seasons young, was born in Lansing Michigan, and moved to Alaska as soon as he could when he was eight.  Gene went to school in Anchorage and graduated from Diamond High during the Nordic skiing “reign of Roumagoux”, ironically Gene didn’t Ski, and he wrestled while at Diamond.  He did have a pair of Army surplus skis that he would use for bushwhacking through the woods and he still likes to ski on narrow, winding trails through the woods.  In 1978 Gene moved to the Mat-Su Valley and later got his first light weight skis from his son, Mike who skied for Colony High School.  On these “hand-me–down”, skis, Gene found they didn’t float over the snow like the military skis and he got into grooming trails in the Mat Valley Moose Range with the late Howie Powder.  

Gene owns Alascon, a valley business that specializes in precast concrete and it allows Gene to fabricate lightweight groomers to pull behind snowmachines to flatten and groom relatively narrow ski trails.  Over the years, Gene has built about 15 of these groomers for individuals as well as the Mat-Su Ski Club.

Gene has been grooming the Moose range area trails and putting in new routes each year since 2006.  He also grooms a bushwhacker ski loop at the Government Peak Rec Area inside the Pioneer loop to give skiers a change of pace and some new scenery.

Gene’s favorite grooming machine is obvious, the Super Wide Track with his trail groomer.  He has worked especially hard to obtain matching grants from the Jessica Stevens Foundation and the State ORTAB grant program for the two Super Wide Track snow machines that groom the Moose Range.  

Gene enjoys grooming super early in the morning under a full moon when the wildlife is moving around.  Gene sees quite a few critters including a wolf trotting along the freshly groomed trail.

Gene would like to invite skiers to give the Moose Range trails a try.  No tracks, but usually wide enough to skate ski.  Check the CCAK Trails Condition Reports before you go.

Gene Backus with one of his lightweight groomers.




As some of you have notices, we have been without our weather station at GPRA.  After having to deal with some technical issues, the GPRA weather station and web cam are now back up and running.  Head on over to our website for a link and better yet, we now have an app for phones that will keep you abreast on the weather at GPRA.


January 3rd – Moonlight Ski,  Moose Range

January 15-16th  – GPRA High School Race, Volunteers Needed

February 7th – Mat-Su Ski for Women

Snow Wars - A New Hope

posted Dec 16, 2015, 10:05 PM by Tammy Hill

The following week has given me optimism for this season, in more ways than one. It all started with a nice little Saturday trip to the local big box home improvement – “betcha can’t leave without spending $100+” – store. After running into no less than a baker’s dozen worth of people we know, we came across one of the club’s past board members, Mark Stigar. If you don’t know Mark, you are missing out. He is one of the most helpful persons on this blue orb. He served for many-a-year on the Board helping us grow to what we are now. (Sidenote: if you are living with a significant other for so-many years, common law says the two of you are married, shouldn’t the same apply to serving on the board of directors? )

Nevertheless, Mark mentioned that the skiing was decent at Independence Mine. That little comment threw out our plans for the remaining half of our weekend. In the previous months I have written on the topic of “parenting with skis,” which has translated to skiing with a screaming (literally) thirty-pound pack. However, our ski the subsequent day proved to be quite enjoyable, as in replace screaming kid with screaming lungs.

The snow was fresh and recently groomed, not having a chance to firm up just yet. The temperature was moderate, with overcast skies that could begin snowing at any moment if someone would just add a teaspoon more moisture to them. As we cruised the skate-able trails for a hundred or so minutes my body reminded me of how much skiing I had done so far this season; virtually none. My arches were killing me, but that may have been from the lack of insoles in my boots, which I had conveniently left sitting on my shop table…

As we rolled in to the work week, the thoughts of that Sunday ski lingered. Sure a few muscles I didn’t know still existed begged me to never ski again, the rest of me wanted to repeat the experience with, maybe, the only revision to include insoles. With the conclusion of my work day I phoned my wife to ready the “honey badger” (our son), for at sun down, we dine on skis!

For the sake of brevity, let me just say this about that evening; if the Sunday ski was to be represented by the color white, this evening’s ski would be the color black, as in Pitch Black; like what you would see if you were blindfolded, with a black cloth, and that was covered with a backwards balaclava, and it’s the middle of the night on the winter’s solstice and you just so happen to fall into a 1,000-foot deep crevasse and lived. Black. Suffice it to say, my nickname for our family unit, “Team $%*T-show” was very apt for this occasion.

It would appear that I am a glutton for punishment, for I knew what this meant for the coming weekend, more skiing! Short of it warming to 90 degrees, I would do anything in my power to make a ski happen. Well, we made three more happen. Although the temp dropped to sub-zero, we suited up the honey badger in his ski chariot and made a great weekend of it.

While this season is still in its infancy, I can’t help but think, “the force is strong with this one.”

3rd Annual Mat-Su Icicle Double

With the ski season finally upon us it is time to start setting goals. The Mat-Su Ski Club is offering the perfect motivation to get you through the holidays on your skis. The Mat-Su Icicle Double is a two day series with classic style on Saturday December 26th and Freestyle on Sunday the 27th. In Freestyle ski you can classic or skate, in the Classic ski you can only classic ski. There are several distances that you can elect to ski: 5 km, 10 km, 15 km, and 30 km. You can change the distance you would like to ski up to 10:30 am on the day of the ski.

We want to encourage families to take part. Families and individuals are charged the same fee, so sign up your whole family for the same cost. If you sign up for the two day series (Classic on Saturday, Freestyle on Sunday), you will receive a $7.50 discount for each day. Participants who finish the 30 km on both days will receive the coveted Icicle Double Beverage Glass. Mark your calendars and jump on the website to sign up today. The first 75 to sign up will receive a free Mat-Su Icicle Double Hat. Visit http://www.matsuski.org/competition to for details and to sign up.

Adult Ski Lessons

First time skier? Need to tune up your racing skills? The Adult Ski Lessons are for all.

Adult ski lessons are offered on five separate days of the week, and you may attend any session at any time:

Saturdays: December 5, 2015 and run every Saturday until March 1, 2016. Time: 10:00 to 11:15 am. Both skate and classic techniques will be taught. 

Mondays and Wednesdays: Dec. 7 until Mar. 2 12-1pm. Classic technique.

Tuesdays and Thursdays: Dec. 8 until Mar. 3 12-1pm. Skate technique. 

All lessons will be held at Government Peak Recreation Area (GPRA) or Archangel Rd. depending on snow conditions… 


5 punch card: $50.00

10 punch card: $90.00

Unlimited card: $150.00

Walk-on price: $12 cash 

You can register online at www.mat-suski.org 

Junior Nordics is just around the corner! (By: Tobias Buchanan, age 10)

Mat-Su Junior Nordics is a fun activity that the whole family will love. This is my family’s 7th year attending the club and every year it is so fun! Every time we get our skis on and ski the trails, we have a blast. Zooming past the trees on skis truly is a great experience. Sometimes it is cold and challenging, but when you really get into it you feel like you are having the time of your life! I hope your family will enjoy Mat-Su junior Nordics as much as my family does. Never before has a ski club been so exciting. Sign up for Mat-Su Junior Nordics today and “Let’s Go Ski!”

If Toby has piqued your interest, head on over to the website for more details on Junior Nordics. 

Calendar of Events: 

Dec. 26 Moonlight Ski GPRA

Dec. 26-27 Icicle Double Races , Gov’t Peak Nordic Area 5K, 10K, 20K, 30K CL on Sat. FS on Sun

Jan. 4 Junior Nordic begins.

Jan. 9 MSB Winter Trails Day, Gov’t Peak Nordic Trails, 10 AM-2 PM Ski lessons

Skiers aren't made - they're born into ski-crazy families

posted Dec 16, 2015, 9:52 PM by Tammy Hill   [ updated Dec 16, 2015, 9:54 PM ]

There comes a time in every boy’s (or girl’s) life where their father comes to them and says “son, we need to have a talk.” This was a subject matter I was nervous about, but it was important enough that I wanted to have this discussion earlier with my son rather than later. My son having just turned eight months, this seemed like the opportune time. We briefly discussed the birds and bees (literally) and moved on to the subject at hand.

“Son, this is a family of skiers and as such, you too will be a skier.”

I explained that while he may not be able to walk, he now owns a pair of skis and they are his responsibility to care for (more or less so…kind of like mom’s skis). We furthered our discussion on the finer points of skate technique and the plusses and minuses of NNN or SNS binding systems. For the conclusion of our talk, I explained that there is a downhill discipline of the sport and a certain faction that “snowboards,” including mom, and we won’t hold that against them…

I felt our talk went well; he seemed to be engaged, although I was doing most of the talking. And then there was this certain point where I felt he was really “getting it.” It was about that same time he spit up on me. Yep, he’s getting it.

Hyperbole aside, we did decide to suit up to head out for our first family ski outing. Well, skiing may have been a bit of an exaggeration; a more apt description would have been walking with skis. Our equipment included touring gear and a child carrier backpack. We headed up to Independence Mine to explore the groomed (i.e. plowed) maintenance road. Our short little loop reminded of a great advantage of having a kid, I get to use the “oh, all this weight on my back really slows me down” excuse.

All in all, it was nice to be back out with white stuff under our skis. Conditions were so-so, but the smiles were out in full force. Even the little man was enjoying the thrill that is skiing at 1mph.

So the season may be kicking off at a glacial pace, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t fun to be had.

Time to Renew Your Membership

If you happened to miss the annual general membership meeting last month, your membership may not be current, but have no fear, membership renewal/sign-up is all-too convenient on our website. Visit www.matsuski.org to renew today.

Trail Pins and Donations

MSSC being a non-profit relies on your volunteerism and support to keep our trails in the condition that you find soo-pleasing. One of the great ways of showing off your club support is by purchasing a Trail Pin ($15 or more) through the website. It is an easy way to help keep the gas in the groomers and the Club on ticking.

Also new this season is the Clubs offering of ski buffs and ski sleeves with the club logo. Sleeves are available for $4 per pair and $5 for ski buffs. Show off your club pride with MSSC apparel. See a MSSC board member to place your order. 

Moonlight Ski

One of the favorite club events that are included in your membership is our monthly Moonlight Ski. This month we will be taking advantage of the early arrival of high elevation snow to conduct our ski to Fred Trimble’s cabin in the gold cord loop. Meet at the Independence Mine parking lot on Saturday, November 21st at 7pm. Bring a headlamp, but hopefully we won’t need it.

Too Soon to Think about Racing?

The best time to begin preparing for a race? It is now. If I may paraphrase Yogi Berra, race prep “is 90% mental and the other half is physical.” So mark the Mat-Su Icicle Double race on your race calendar, occurring on the weekend of December 26-27th. With race lengths of 5- 30KM, classic on Saturday and freestyle on Sunday; the right race is waiting for you. Tune into our website for updates.

Upcoming Events:

Race to The Outhouse Sat 7 Nov 1030AM Independence Mine Classic or Skate 5Km.

Moonlight Ski Sat 21 Nov 7PM Independence Mine Ski to Fred Trimble’s cabin in the Gold Cord Basin for hot chocolate!

High School ski races and community race Dec 4-5 Gov’t Peak Rec Area Times TBD. Community race will be after the High School race on Sat.

Fall Time = Waiting Time

posted Sep 28, 2015, 9:02 PM by admin matsuski   [ updated Sep 30, 2015, 9:16 PM by Unknown user ]

I have an odd love-hate relationship with fall; to the point I might say it’s my least favorite time of the year. Daylight is waning, the weather can be excessively wet and my wife has to go back to work, not to mention that I have to play the “waiting game” until skiing. Now many of you may disagree and reply, “but Hans, the fall colors are soooo beautiful!” Blah, you can take your fall colors, cover them in white and then I’ll be happy.

Nevertheless, I head out and get wet. Whether it be hunting in Delta, or picking berries in Hatcher, we try to get out and stretch the legs in some way. So when the tops of the neighboring peaks began to show signs of old age (white on top) I knew we’d be heading up to check it out.

Which brings us to last weekend; Saturday brought more rain, but more snow up high. Sunday brought promising skies and so we began to suit up… for a hike in the snow. It should be noted that our time for preparation for outings has vastly increased since the appearance of the offspring. In fact, I would surmise the ratio for preparing for outings and the time of actual outing approaches 1:1. So it’s no surprise that our lazy Sunday, “crack of noon” departure times, PC (post children) have turned into “Is it too late, should we be even going.” Thankfully we departed and headed for the hills.

April Bowl in Hatcher Pass was our intended destination. Upon reaching the Pass proper, several inches of moist snow lay waiting. Although our son, having turned seven months-old the day prior, was born in the winter months, I consider this day his first snow day. The boy was just about as excited as I. Nothing could have made me happier (his reaction, not the snow…sort of). As we hiked up to gain purchase, he giggled the whole way, not even minding the chill air.

Our hike down was a bit stressful with the packed snow, steep slopes and precious cargo. But it was made easier knowing our son would be enjoying snow many more times in the future.

I will leave you with this, if the fall is still dragging on when this reaches your mailbox, know the first ski will be all that more enjoyable when it does finally arrive… or at least that is what I’ll keep telling myself in the meantime.


Having seen snow already this season and having a keen sense of all things snow, I can assure one of these things to be true: the snow this year will be early and often, we will all have record number of ski days or the Mat-Su Ski Club will start grooming at Independence Mine as soon as there is skiable snow (I am leaning towards the first one). MSSC has already prepositioned grooming equipment at the Mine and brushed and marked the loops. Signage has been emplaced in the usual spots to help errant skiers. Hopefully we all will be rendezvousing there shortly. As snow makes its way down, we will groom Archangel Road and the trails at Government Peak also as soon as there enough to ski and probably remove our grooming equipment from Independence Mine in December.

Annual Meeting

Every year for the past few I have proselytized about the MSSC Annual Membership Meeting and the great ski event information and speakers… oh and the free swag giveaways. This year it is currently scheduled for Friday 30 October at 6:30 PM at the Palmer Depot. Currently upgrades are being completed at the GPRA center, but if they are completed early the Annual meeting will occur at GPRA. Please check the website for updates. Be there or miss out on the hottest event of this fall!

Preseason Training

If you are a member of the MSSC, you should have received an email advertising our Clubs preseason ski training. Our great in-house coach, Daryl Farrens, has put together this twice weekly program running through the end of October, which includes a myriad of dry land training exercises to get the eager beaver ready for the upcoming season. If you have missed out this season, put it on the calendar for next year and commence hill bounding now to catch up to Daryl and his attendees.

Skiing Paraphernalia

Looking for an anniversary or birthday present, or maybe just want to show off your support of the club? Look no further than your Local MSSC for the answer. This year the Club has ski ties (sleeves) for $4 per pair and ski buffs for $5, both showing off the highly fashionable ski club logo. Available at the Annual Meeting or see a board member for details.

Upcoming Events

Race To The Outhouse Saturday 7 Nov 10:30 AM FREE Classic or Skating 5KM at Independence Mine. This is a low key opportunity for Racers to “blow the carbon out”, in preparation for the serious races to come.

Ski Tour at Independence Mine. Sunday 8 Nov 1 PM. Great for recreational skiers, we will include an orientation on the different loops and skier etiquette. Participants need to be able to handle the mile long 300’ vertical climb to get to the mine area.

Moonlight Ski 21 Nov 7 PM Independence Mine.

Adult ski lessons for classic and skate techniques will begin about the 1st week of December. Keep checking the Mat-Su Ski Club's website for update information regarding days and times.

Thank You Awesome Volunteers!

posted Mar 17, 2015, 9:06 AM by Mat-Su Ski Club

Thank You!

Our Club is a completely community driven group.  The interest and participation from our fellow neighbors is what keeps our sport alive.  Within our group is a subset of people that are the heart of the Mat-Su Nordic skiing community; the volunteers.  Without them our sport would be nothing more than a twinkle in Mother Nature’s eye.  

It is seasons like this that the importance of volunteers really shines.  Like many events across the state, we too had to cancel a few events, making the ones that were a “go” all that more important.  From the Icicle Double (where up until a few days before we didn’t know if the event would occur) to the slushy-icy-cold-and-warm Junior Nordic season, I would place our volunteers as some of the best in the state.  Our grooming team made all of our events a success… well at least to the best of their abilities given Ullr’s participation, but nevertheless there was some sweet corduroy.

I would like to thank all those who volunteered, hours, days, months of their time to helping grow what is fast becoming a gem of the Mat-Su Valley, our Mat-Su Ski Club.   I am constantly humbled by the pure humanity shown by you who have given up your weekends and free time.

As your read through the lists of volunteers below, please take a minute to create a mental reminder to thank these people next time you see them.  They are what make our club great.

Groomers – Groomed Independence Mine, Archangel Road, GPRA (including the mountain bike trails and the “bushwack extension of the Pioneer Loop”.
Darren Black
Gene Backus
Chris Jones
Dave Musgrave
Zack Steer
Mark Stigar
Mark Strabel
Ed Strabel
Brandon Thielke (grooming coordinator)
Ashley Wise

Junior Nordic Coaches and helpers
Dave Musgrave
Chris Jones
Mike Shea
Wade Erickson
Aleshia Quenell
Megan Danz
Paula Werner
Bailey LaRousse
Rick Benedict
Jillian Morrissey
Joe Moore
Brian Winnestaffer
Sydney Thielke
Ed Strabel
Mark Stigar
Tracy Houser
Robyn Hall
Fran Jacobson
Chris Jacobson
Cory Jones
Lucas Parker
Greg Ravencraft
Mike Norton
Brent Taylor
Dan Jenkins
Pamela Speer
Joshua Klina
Maritt Youngblood .
Anjanette Steer
Tobin Swortz
Katie Naylor
John Naylor
Solvejg Rogers
Aubrey Knapp
Steven Merrit
Brooke Loudon

Adult lessons
Sydney Thielke
Mark Stigar
Tom Smayda
Daryl Farrens.

Race Staff
Tom Smayda
Mark Strabel
Mark Stigar
Hans Hill
Dave Musgrave
Chris Jones
Darryl Farrens
Ashley Wise
Ed Strabel
Ski for Women
Tracy Houser
Mary Ann Holmquist
Rebecca Buchanan
Luke Arthur
Mark Strabel
Tammy Sipo
Megan Danz
Peggy and Sophia Kristich
Mark Stigar
Gene Backus
Kristi Shea
Joe Moore
Dave Holmquist
Ed Strabel
Maritt Youngblood
Dave Freer
Teresa Clemmer
Steve Merritt
Dave Musgrave
Daryl Farrens

Trail Raking 
Skiers from Colony High School Ski Team
Skiers from Palmer High School Ski Team
Skiers from Wasilla High School Ski Team
Junior Nordic Skiers 

Board of Directors
Gene Backus 
Darryl Farren
Hans Hill
Karen Hopp
Dave Musgrave
Mike Norton
Tom Smayda
Sue Skvorc
Mark Stigar
Mark Strabel
Ed Strabel.

-by Hans Hill

Sue's Scoop: filling in for Hans this month, Sue has the scoop!

posted Feb 17, 2015, 9:38 AM by Mat-Su Ski Club   [ updated Feb 17, 2015, 9:41 AM ]

A lot has been happening in the Mat-Su Valley ski community this month. By the time you read this, the ski club will have gained at least one new member. Your usual correspondent has turned over this month’s writing duties to me while he and his wife bring their first child into the world. Only four more years and board member Hans Hill will be able to enroll little Bjorn (great skier name, huh ?!) in Junior Nordic! 

Speaking of Junior Nordic, the Mat-Su Ski Club has over 300 youth in the program this year.  Current weekday Junior Nordic sessions will continue until March 5th, weather permitting. Many of the groups have transitioned from classical to skate skiing and the kids are going great! The end of the year JN potluck party will be held on Saturday, March 21 at GPRA. Parents will be able to return rental equipment at that time. A great many volunteers and parent sweeps deserve a big thank you for all they do. They commit to being outside skiing with the kids twice a week and are very much appreciated.

February saw many events on the trails at the Government Peak Recreation Area. On the first day of the month, 104 women, sporting colorful tutus, or dressed as tacos, moose, mermaids, something that might have been magic markers, and even the abominable snowwoman, converged on the trails for the Second Annual Ski for Women. The event raised $1980 for Alaska Family Services, a Valley organization that helps local families in crisis. While smaller than the like named event in the big city south of here, this event exudes just as much spirit as the larger women’s ski. Attendance at this year’s event drew more than twice as many participants as the first year.  A great day of fun was had by all and many thanks to all the volunteers who made it happen, especially Rebecca Buchanan, Tracy Houser and Mary Ann Holmquist, who took the lead to organize the event. Of course having great sponsors like Mat Su Health Foundation and our local businesses is very much appreciated too.

On February 7, five days after the groundhog predicted six more weeks of winter ( six more weeks for a chance that snow may arrive?), high school racers headed north to Su-Valley High School for the borough championships. Skiers from Wasilla, Palmer, Colony, Su Valley and Valdez came together for a one day event. While winds in the lower valley gusted to 70 mph and broke at least one garage door and car windshield, the trails up the road at Su Valley provided a more protected venue for the event.  Colony High won both the boys and girls events, and Valdez placed second. Then the next weekend, February 13 - 14, Colony hosted the Region III Championships at GPRA, despite rising temperatures and freezing rain leading up to the event.  Kenai boys and girls teams won the event, with Colony boys and girls placing highest among the valley teams. Colony boys, led by Tracen Knopp, placed second behind Kenai, and Colony girls, led by Greta Jenkins,  placed third behind Kenai and Soldotna. A smattering of snow moved through the area during the week before, though not quite enough to cover up all the birch seeds. But we all know that the groomers can work real magic with just a few inches of the white stuff.  Goodness knows they have had many challenges with the low level of precipitation this winter.

This month’s Groomer of the Month is Ashley Wise. Ashley started out as a volunteer on call groomer last year for the Moose Range trails but because of poor snow conditions had little to do. This year Ashley has groomed the Independence Mine Trails and is the regular groomer at Archangel Road. Ashley was born in Tuxedo Park, New York and has lived in Houston, Texas and London England when he was young. He earned a degree in Archeology from the University of Arizona-Tucson. Ashley loves the outdoors, teaching outdoor Education at the University of North Carolina- Greensboro and with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) at several sites. He is currently the program director for NOLS-Alaska and the Winter Caretaker for the NOLS Base on Farm Loop Rd. He is married to Melisse and they have a one year old son, Porter. They enjoy getting into the backcountry on skis and make good use of one of the Mat-Su Ski Club loaner “chariots”.
Ashley believes that it is important to give back to the community and by helping groom ski trails for the public to ski on he can also enjoy the solitude of back country. Ashley also likes the feel of the super wide track snowmachines and the night sky and mountains at the far end of Archangel Road. Thanks Ashley for the corduroy!

On March 14 -15, right about the time you read this, club members will be enjoying an overnight ski excursion to the Serenity Falls cabin at the end of the Eklutna Lake Road. This is an annual trip, weather permitting that began as an adventure for Colony High skiers and their two coaches (Ed Strabel and I) over 10 years ago. Today, all the bugs have been worked out, and the trip is a fabulous weekend for the 13 or 14  people lucky enough to get it on the deal. On that first trip, things were well planned out for logistics and grooming, except for the foot of snow that fell just before we set out. Ed planned to groom trail ahead of the skiers all the way out to the cabin, while pulling a sled with sleeping bags, food, cooking tools and all of the rest of our gear. But the deep snow proved too much for the snowmachine and it became more of a trailblazing exercise. By the time all fourteen skiers reached the cabin, most were wet from falling snow, tired from slogging through 12 or 13 miles of deep snow, and one had broken a ski. But everyone was in good spirits and set about hanging various items of clothing above the stove to dry. Some dried their clothes while wearing them, and a few of them were reminded  why we don’t put ski clothes in the drier. My old XC ski pants got a little shiny and crusty when the nylon melted and cooled. I have new SWIX pants now, and I do not get so close to the fire anymore.   After that first year’s thirteen mile ski, wrestling the snowmachine back on the trail a few times after getting stuck in the deep stuff, building snow caves and retracing the last mile of trail in the dark, looking for that one sleeping bag that rolled off the gear sled, all one really wants is a hot meal and a dip in the hot springs. Guess which one I actually got?  The hard to find hot springs still beckon new adventurers who reach the Serenity Falls cabin. It is not on the map, so you might have to ask your host how to find it. If you want to be part of this grand vacation weekend and you are reading this before March 14, check our website (www.matsuski.org); there just might be a slot left for you. Dinner and breakfast are communal meals and all pitch in to make it a grand time. Bring your own snacks and water for skiing in and back out, and bring a talent to share. Rental of the cabin is about $15 per person.

Adult lessons are about at an end, but there is still time to ski. Archangel road is typically skiable into April, and we still have the Race to the Outhouse number two coming up. Check out the website for dates and details. There may be a citizen’s race March 21 at GPRA if the snow holds out. If not, get a fat tire bike and check out the four miles of single track built by the Valley Mountain Bikers and Hikers last summer.

All of us who live and ski in the valley love to show off our new chalet and trails that the whole community has taken part in developing. It is a great place for all levels of skiers, as well as hikers, bikers, snowshoe enthusiasts, and even equestrians in designated areas. An exciting piece of news shared at the board meeting in February was a $2500 Executive Director’s grant the club received from Mat-Su Health Foundation, a generous supporter of our club. And you may have already heard about the $200,000 Rasmuson grant awarded to the borough to upgrade the building’s kitchen facility and do some safety upgrades, with perhaps some left to start the lighting of the trails project. Our club is attracting interest from far and wide, and the popularity of the GPRA facility and trails with users from all over Alaska only adds to our success. We hope to keep this positive feedback loop going.  The borough is supportive in our quest to light the trails, plans have been drawn and now it is a matter of securing funding to do all of the work.

Come up and see for yourself: great trails, great grooming and spectacular views. Head up the Glenn Highway from Anchorage through Palmer, turn left at Palmer Fishhook and drive about seven miles to Edgerton Parks Road. Take a left, drive about one mile until you see the big brown sign directing you up the road on your right to the chalet.

By Sue Skvorc

Christmas Break

posted Jan 22, 2015, 11:00 AM by Mat-Su Ski Club

Christmas break is always a fun
time of the year, specifically in the
ski world. Sometimes the snow is a
bit dodgy, but the desire to be on the
snow brings out all types. Of course
the diehards will be found getting in
their Ks, but they can be found at all
times of the season out on the trails.
There are the fair-weather skiers,
who make their appearance between
24-30 degrees during daylight hours,
coincidentally usually they are found
on the trail at the same time as fresh
corduroy ...

On the non-advanced skier side
of the equation, there are couple
other types, the first being the true
beginner. The obvious identifiers
are the all new REI clothing and
the brand new skis, though this
may lead to a false identification of
a diehard, the difference being the
price of the skis. Finally, there is
the four-a-year, rarely spotted, but
usually seen during the holidays,
mostly characterized by the amazing
condition of their gear, although a
number of years old. Occasionally
they may be found in the middle of a
long loop, walking up the side of the
trail with their skis off.

With that said in jest, I do enjoy
seeing all the various faces out in the
fresh air. My favorite skiers to see out
and about are the newbies. Sure they
may take a few extra seconds to get
around, or they may be heading in the
wrong direction, but they usually are
having the most fun. Or the family
who just got skis as a Christmas
present to each other: from the young
children to their parents, all starting
at the same skill level, level zero. But
that doesn’t matter, because they are
all there for the same reason. The
same reason that we are all out on
the trails: to be out enjoying nature’s
frosty creation, while activating our
tendons, ligaments and muscles is
some bizarre ballot that we are trying
to get the sequence just right. Some
just have the dance down better than
others, or in my case the word “some”
seems like a rather large number.

Most would agree that the ideal
ski is fresh tracks all to oneself and
while I wouldn’t put up much of an
argument with that sentiment, I
wouldn’t hesitate to offer up a close
second (well, maybe third) is being
out amongst those just beginning
their ski career. The odds of finding
yourself surrounded by cheechako
skiers may seem low, as it turns out
the MSSC has opportunities to do just
that. Help coach this season!

–By Hans Hill

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