Sunny Skiathon signals spring

By Reba Lean
Sun Star Reporter

A skier competes in the 20k Skiathon Saturday, March 20 on the campus trail system. Photo by Angela Milliron/The Sun Star

A 20-kilometer classic ski race tradition heated up the waning winter on Saturday. With 80 participants, the annual Skiathon boasted some of Fairbanks’ finest nordic skiers. The annual Skiathon celebrates the university’s trails and also helps raise funds for their upkeep.

“They’ve been a part of the university since its earliest days,” Nordic Ski Club President Mike Ruckhaus said of the trails.

With the help of UAF Facilities Service, the money raised last year bought a new ceiling, insulation and improved lighting for the ski hut. The money also goes to trail improvements.

As the snow dripped from the roof of the Ski Hut at the UAF trailhead, racers suited up for the long ski ahead. Beginners and veterans alike attended the event. Wardrobes ranged from jackets and jeans to spandex and fleece. The ski tour winds through the back trails of UAF in a seemingly random pattern, but that may well be the charm of the event.

At 11 a.m. the skiers took off, some blasting up their first hill with a winning agenda, others leisurely following behind. The sunny skies warmed cheeks and brought smiles all around.

An hour later, the leaders were visible from the finish line. The Nanook’s own John Parry came across the finish first, with a time of one hour, three minutes and 12 seconds. Dave Arvy was just 21 seconds behind him.

“Dave put up a good fight,” Parry said afterwards, “He’s really strong in the double poling.”

At one point in the race, Parry started to take a wrong turn and left the trail for a couple meters before someone corrected him. That action probably cost him a few seconds on his time.

Theresia Schnurr, another Nanook skier, was the first woman finisher, eighth overall. Both Parry and Schnurr decided that since their team’s racing season was over, they might as well enter all the fun races they could to keep in shape. Schnurr was disappointed not to see more of her teammates out that day. With a time of one hour, 12 minutes and 55 seconds, Schnurr said, “it was a really fun race.”

Audun Endestad, a 1984 Winter Olympian, finished with the leaders. He is believed to hold the course record in under an hour, but can’t remember what his time was or when it occurred. He also doesn’t believe the time is important, because times are variable each year. “It comes down to the snow condition,” he said.

Everyone agreed that conditions were great Saturday. But now is the time to enjoy them because, with the high spring temperatures upon us, they may not last long.

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