The day after Thanksgiving, the Hatcher Pass parking lot was full of people who traded Black Friday bargains for the backcountry.


“I don’t shop — I ski,” Mary Vavrik laughed.


She was one of two dozen people who turned out for the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage’s annual Turkey Day Shakeoff.


“We’ll be out for a five- or six-mile ski,” tour leader Karlene Leeper explained. “We’re going to go above Independence Mine to the Gold Cord Mine.”


For the past few years, outdoor recreation company REI has pushed people to explore nature with its #OptOutside campaign. While some big box stores like Target and Walmart open on Thursday afternoon, REI closes all of its locations nationwide to give employees a break to enjoy the outdoors.


Skiers at the Turkey Day Shakeoff were ahead of the curve; they’ve been “opting outside” for decades.


“We set the trend actually,” Vavrik said.


There wasn’t much snow at Hatcher Pass, but enough to please cross-country skiers.


“This is the first ski for most of the people here, first ski of the season so everyone is pretty enthusiastic about getting out and getting in shape for the wintertime,” Leeper said.


As the skiers headed toward the mine, Nylene Warner pulled her 3-year-old son Rory down the slope on a little sled. She and her husband are teachers who wanted to spend their day off from school having quality time with their kids.


“It’s nice to take a break and have it feel like a vacation day instead of going inside and being around swarms of people. It feels good to get outside and that’s what the boys would prefer anyway too,” Warner said.


With so many great places to adventure in the state, Alaskans say shopping can wait.


KTVA 11’s Heather Hintze can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.


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