Hundreds of women took off from the Kincaid Park Stadium on Sunday for the annual Alaska Ski for Women — North America’s largest women-only cross-country ski event that focuses on empowering women from all walks of life.

According to the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage website, Alaska Ski for Women "is a great event where women of all ages and abilities come out to ski approximately 2.4 miles (4K), many in colorful costumes, while raising funds for local non-profit organizations that help stop the cycle of domestic abuse against women and children."

Many women wore costumes for the event, including participants like Colleen McClurg, who dressed up as a raven, and De Lewis, who went as a mouse with a group of friends.

"I'm so skilled that I don't know how to sew, so everything is duct taped on the seam," De Lewis said. "It's supporting women and just standing up for them and trying to empower them."

Jennifer Brown, from Standing Together Against Rape, said the event also raises awareness about serious problems like sexual assault around Alaska.

"Alaska is number one in those statistics," she said. When asked why the state has such high numbers, she said some people believe it has to do with isolation in some areas, lack of law enforcement and drug and alcohol abuse rates that make people more vulnerable.

STAR estimates more than half the adult women in Anchorage have been sexually assaulted at one time, and it's received more calls for help.

"We had 400 more calls last year than we did the year before, and they will go up in 2019 as well is what we're projecting," Brown said. "I like to think it's because people are feeling more comfortable reaching out for help when they need it."

STAR is only one of the organizations that receives money from Alaska Ski for Women. Over the years, the race has contributed over $1,000,000 to groups that actively work to improve women’s lives.

Some of the funds raised also goes to Abused Women's Aid in Crisis, a non-profit dedicated to providing safe shelters and intervention to victims of domestic violence.

"We served 464 women I believe last year, here in Anchorage and 254 children," Lilah Walker, AWAIC's development director, said. "AWAIC offers safe shelter, as well as case management and supportive services to women who have been impacted by domestic violence."

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence, you can call STAR's statewide crisis number for support at (800) 478-8999 or AWAIC's 24-hour crisis and support hotline at (907) 272-0100.

Elizabeth Roman contributed to this report.

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