Get Out: Speed skating in Southcentral Alaska
If you love snow, it’s been a tough winter so far in Alaska. The lack of snow, however, has created some of the best ice conditions in years here in the Southcentral.
So this week, I decided to strap on the skates. I’m not just strapping on any skates, though. I’m looking for a little speed.
“I don’t ever feel like I’ve ever been, like, a particularly fast person, but when I get on speed skates, I go fast,” said Peter Haeussler, head coach of the Alaska Speedskating Club, who signed up to teach me some techniques on building speed. “I feel the wind whipping by and, yeah, it feels like you’re flying.”
Skaters can reach speeds of more than 30 mph, though I’d be happy if I hit half that speed. The long-blade design, different than the one on hockey skates, helps you reach these speeds.
“So a hockey skate, it has a sort of short rocker,” Haeussler said. “I mean they’re made to turn a lot. And they’re made to start and stop. And they’re also hollowed round, so they’re a little dish-shaped if you look along the edge of the blade, you can see there’s a little dish to it all.”
So you can accelerate quickly on hockey skates, but you don’t get the straight line speed of speed skates.
“I think what I really like about speedskating is it’s an interesting combination of athleticism and precision, and maybe it’s a little bit like a martial art that way,” Haeussler said. “You have to do things really well and really precise to go really fast. And when you put that all together with being physically fit, I think it’s just a beautiful sport.”
I have a while to go, though, before I make this sport look beautiful.
The Speedskating Club has a duathlon race this Sunday at Cuddy Family Midtown Park, open to anyone who wants to view the race or participate.
The 4K skate race will be followed by a 4K cross-country ski. Registration is at noon with the race beginning at 1 p.m.
Alaska Mountaineering and Hiking (AMH) also offers speed skate rentals for $10 a day or $25 for the weekend.