Changing Plans

After a successful start to the school year, our plan for the second semester changed. Instead of retaking government/civics, our son decided to learn to fly small planes. We know the instructor teaching it through the university this spring. Since R is only 15, and the class was small, the university put up a lot of roadblocks to him signing up. We navigated out way through, and in the end the entire family is taking it! My and R officially. My husband already has his pilot certificate, but wants a refresher. That means our daughter is stuck tagging along, but she’s learning a bit too. Last Wednesday was the midterm. We’ll find out this Wednesday how everyone did.

One of the university requirements for allowing R to take the ground school class was to take a 4 credit weather course at the same time. He’s doing pretty well with that, although the online format is challenging at times due to technical difficulties with the system and/or computer. The prof is very nice and willing to help. He and R are to start meeting once a week in person after Spring Break to go over any concerns and the weeks schedule . Their first session together went well. They did the snow lab, and seemed to have an enjoyable time.

This means R is taking 8 college credits this semester. He’s also on 2 cross country ski teams, so has been skiing 2-4 hours most days with races every other week. Plus, keeping up with his math and literature classes is keeping him very busy, but he’s enjoying the challenge. He’s already been rewarded for his efforts. The high school ski season is now over. Although he wasn’t selected as a member of the school’s team that went to the state championships, he did earn a letter in cross county skiing. This is his first time lettering in a sport!

How’s your school year going? Leave me a comment to let me know.

Besh Cup 5&6

My son entered the last 2 races in the statewide series of cross country ski races. They were held last weekend here in Fairbanks. He’s not done any of these before, and has been skiing against younger kids all season. However, you must race in your division for Besh Cup races, so he was racing other 14&15 year old boys that are the best in the state. The outcome of this weekend’s races determined Team Alaska for US Junior National races next month. Alaska is the only state to have their own team at Nationals. All other states are grouped into regional teams. So, needless to say, the competition was tough.  Anyway, Saturday was a 5k skate race. Sunday was a 3k classic. The skate course was tough. Read this quote from to understand why:

“The trails at Birch Hill are built on the side of, well, a hill (also, there are birch trees). The courses used for this weekend’s races were marked by an impressive Height Difference (the elevation change between the lowest and highest points on the course) of 89 meters within a 5-kilometer course. The World Cup skiathlon race that was contested in South Korea the same weekend, on the trails that will be used for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, featured height differences of only 58 and 41 meters on the two skiathlon courses.

In fact, a height difference of 89 meters is a greater elevation spread than was present on most of the traditional World Cup courses this season, including in Davos (84m), Lillehammer (74m), Falun (69m), and Ulricehamn (57m).”

So considering this was his first race at this level of competition and the difficulty of the course, I’m happy he even finished. He came in last (but not by much). He was mostly doing it for the experience, so I didn’t pay the extra to have him ranked. Plus, they were the last 2 races of the season. Still, that makes him unofficially 40th in the state.

His first high school race

Today was the final cross country ski race of the season in the Town Race series. This year my son has been racing with the 7-8 grade boys as a junior varsity entry. However, this race he did well enough last year that they had him stay with the other high school boys in the B bracket. There were 4 ‘A’ bracket and 3 ‘B’ bracket preliminary boys races, then an equal number of finals for each bracket, so everyone raced twice. It was a ski cross event, meaning there were jumps, slalom gates, and lots of tight turns over a 1km course going up and downhill.

My son came in 4th in his preliminary race, which put him in the second final (B Final). He did well in that, finishing somewhere in the middle. The official results haven’t been posted yet. I’ll update when they are. He’s pretty happy with his results, although he realizes there were some things he could have done better in the final. He got caught up in a pack behind someone who fell. He didn’t fall this time and didn’t seem as tired as when he finished last year. That’s improvement.

Not sure what team he will qualify for next year. He is considering one of the local high schools as well as the private team. Many of the top skiers do that. It means about 3 hours of skiing most days, but they are good, often qualifying for national or international races. We already talked to the local high school’s coach. He agreed to allow my son to join as a homeschool student.

An amusing thing happened to me while we were there. For the last few years I’ve been unofficially helping at this race herding kids, etc. while on skis. This year I wasn’t, and several coaches, kids, and others involved in the race kept asking me why I was not skiing.



The results have been published. He was 3/5 in the preliminary and 5/6 in the final.


Sticker shock

I got a bit of sticker shock yesterday. My 2 kids are taking cross country ski lessons. Right now we are using some old Karhu waxless touring skis. They are great for ungroomed trails and backcountry skiing. Since they are waxless, there is very little maintenance involved. Plus, the price was right since we got everything used except poles for my son and me.

The kids are growing fast. The boots my son had the last 2 years now fit my daughter. He is using a spare pare of mine, which are actually almost too small already. They are all the old 3-pin style bindings, which are outdated. My daughter’s bindings are literally falling apart. I’ve had to put them back together a few times recently. Rather than change bindings on our skis to work with the new boot styles, I decided it is time to upgrade skis. So yesterday afternoon we went to a local sporting gear shop.

I am dreadfully uninformed about what to look for in quality skis. Thankfully, the sales clerk wasn’t. He took the time to answer all our questions and then had his partner come over to answer those about junior skis he didn’t know. Overall, we spent over half an hour talking to them. My son really needs and wants skate skis. He can still use the old classic ones for now, but apparently you need a different type of ski for doing skate skiing. That would also include new bindings, poles, and boots. Luckily there is a type of boot called a “combi” that can be used for both classic and skate skis (and even with roller skis) as long as the bindings are the same. Eventually we will get him new classic skis with whatever binding he gets for the skate skis. Since my daughter is still small, she can get a “combi” ski until she gets older. Then she too will need separate classic and skate skis.

Now for the sticker shock. A set of boots, bindings, and skate skis for my son was around $600. That’s about $200 more than I was expecting. Since we are the same height, I would need the same package. The junior “combi” ski package for my daughter was about half that. I’m going to a different sports store today to get another perspective on what we need. Then I’ll try the used sports gear shop to see if they have any of what we need that’s more within my budget. Otherwise, it’s probably going to have to wait until fall.

Off to the races

Today was a good day for the cross country ski races. It was warm with temperatures in the upper teens and low 20’s, and fresh snow yesterday.

Karen was in the kindergarten through 2nd grade girls group and took 3rd place! Not bad for her very first race. (They were signed up for a race in December, but it was cancelled due to cold weather) We originally thought from the group of kids she was in near the finish that she would be 5th, but one of them was a boy and then she passed a girl right at the finish line to get third place. Her race was 1km.

Richard had a big disadvantage. Most of the others in his group (5th & 6th grade boys) were part of the ski club’s developmental competition team. They practice for 1.5 hours/day most days of the week. His race was 2km long. He finished way last, but did complete it so I’m satisfied. We need to practice more often and do more hill climbing so he can get better. He still wants to learn skate skiing next year. Perhaps we can get a good deal on those skis and boots at the fall ski swap or used from another family. He’ll also need new boots for his current skis. He’s growing fast 🙂

I want to give a big thank you to the Fairbanks Junior Nordics for sponsoring them in these races.

Their next set of lessons begin Thursday night. They will be once a week for 6 weeks. Then in March, they will have lessons twice a week for 3 weeks. After breakup when things dry up, we will hit the trails starting cross country running and biking. Hopefully next fall we will all be in better shape for ski season. This year was mostly a test to see if everyone liked it and how well it fits without schedule. So far, I think it’s working pretty good. As they get older, if they are still interested in competing, we likely will have to put more time into it.

UPDATE: Well, we were right afterall, Karen did officially take 5th out of 9. I don’t know why she was given a 3rd place ribbon. Her 1km time was, 9:43.7  Richard’s 2km time was, 24:21.5 There were 13 boys in his race.

Beginning ski lessons

Winter is here. That means it’s time to get out our skis. This year we have a bit more spare time so decided to sign up for beginning ski lessons on Thursday evenings. Richard and Karen are in the Junior Nordics program and I am part of the adults.

It’s crazy at the start of the evening. Basically everyone converges on Birch Hill cross country ski center at 615pm. There’s over 100 kids and at least 25 adults, not counting the coaches. We click on our skis and find our groups for warmup. Karen is usually nervous because she doesn’t handle large groups well. Richard just heads off, making me nervous!

The kids have drills, ski practice, then play a group game. Their groups are by age so Karen and Richard aren’t together. At the end of the hour, I find them near the ski rack, tired but happy.

I’m in the beginning adult classic group. There are 8 students and 1 coach. So far, I’m intimidated by going down hills, but getting better. Last week was the first tine in 5 tries I haven’t fallen going downhill! Most of my problem is mental, not physical. If I’d just relax, it would be a lot better. It’s rather pathetic because the hills we’re doing aren’t very steep (yet). I think we are going to do a different hill trail next week.

Last week apparently Richard had a little adventure. He took the wrong fork on a trail so wound up on the Competition Loop. One of the assistants came to get him. He’s doing real good. They were supposed to go on a loop called Roller Coasters, but did drills instead so will probably do it next week. It’s a popular trail for the tweens and teens.

There are no lessons this week because Thursday is Thanksgiving. The kids want to go skiing anyway. I’m not sure if Birch Hill will be open or if we will got the university trails. However, the temperature is falling, so it may be too cold. Right now it is -15F in town and -5F at our house.

Homeschool ski day

Yesterday our school district had a homeschool ski and nutrition day at our local cross country ski park. The kids were divided into 2 groups, those 5th grade and up and those 4th grade and under. My two are in the 4th and under. There were about a dozen k-4th grade students. I don’t know how many older ones there were.

The younger kids started the afternoon in the auditorium doing a nutrition activity while the older kids skied. Then they switched.

I went out skiing with the younger ones. The district PE adviser and I were the only adults skiing with them. My son was the only one in that group who had ever skied before. What a lot of fun we all had! I’m glad I brought my skis. We were out about an hour.

The adviser showed them how to get on their skis. Then they all skied to the end of the flat area where she showed them how to fall and get back up. Down to the other end where they were given poles. At the other end she showed them V for uphill and downhill (snowplow). Finally a few more trips back and forth before it was time to get the skis off.

I didn’t have much idea what was supposed to be going on. My help consisted of keeping the kids from running each other over, keeping them from going down side trails, and giving encouragement. I’m glad I was there though because my son was ready to explore the side trails (hills!) and likely some of the others would have followed him. He was a bit disappointed he didn’t get to try the nearby hill, but still had a good time. When we were leaving, my daughter asked if they have races there. When I said they did, she said she wants to do that. I guess we’d better get her some skis.