EnjoyWinter Factory Team Tour of Anchorage Recap

Posted by Annika Landis, EnjoyWinter Factory Team on Mar 8th 2024

EnjoyWinter Factory Team Tour of Anchorage Recap

After the Birkie, I headed straight to Alaska to race the Tour of Anchorage. I had a full week to spend exploring Anchorage, and I took advantage of that time to get out on the many different trail systems. I have never been to Anchorage and it was exciting to ski on new trails. For one ski, I headed up to Hatcher Pass and the Independence Mine ski trails, which were incredible and nothing like anything I’ve ever skied before. The trails were so close to huge mountains and the views were spectacular on a bluebird day. I also, of course, skied at Kincaid, Hillside and the Girdwood trails which all offered a uniquely beautiful experience. The one thing they all had in common was the proliferation of moose on the trails, making blind corners and even more exciting adventures!

Skiing at the Independence Mine trails at Hatcher Pass. 

My pre-race day started by heading to downtown Anchorage to watch the ceremonial start of the Iditirod sled dog race. It was brutally cold, and yet the streets were packed with spectators eager to catch a glimpse of the dog teams and their mushers as they headed out in the Alaskna wilderness. I had never seen a sled dog race before, and it was fun to watch how excited the dogs were to run and race. Given the chill, I for one was pretty happy to only race 50km in the Alaska cold, instead of 1,000 miles!

Huge thank you to Ben Arians and Smithy the cat for helping me make an excellent wax call for the race!

Finally after a week of skiing and exploring, it was time for the main event - the Tour of Anchorage. Race day was cold, but not as bad as we were expecting and with my double base layers under my racesuit, I stayed plenty warm. The course starts out with 10k of climbing, and Rosie Frankowski skied those 10k with no regard for the remaining 40k. I stayed with her as long as I could but wasn’t a match for her impressive tempo, and by the high point of the climb I had dropped back. The rest of the course is deceivingly hard because it is mostly flat V2 with little rest and few climbs. It becomes a challenge of staying focused on pushing yourself with good technique and it is easy to get lulled into a complacent, if not lazy, rhythm.

After about 30km of skiing alone down the trail, I was very ready for some company, and was pretty happy when Hailey Swirbul and a small group of men caught up to me. It was such a relief to be able to draft and have a little help pushing across the flats. With about 15km to go, we had to stop for a few minutes while a particularly stressed moose made its way off the trail. Only a few km later, we had to stop again for another pair of moose, but luckily they moved quickly.

Our group of four skiers, Hailey and I, and the two men, worked together towards the finish. I made an attempt on the last climb to distance myself from Hailey, but I didn’t have quite enough time or energy to create a decisive gap. Hailey ended up out sprinting me in the final stretch, which I expected and I ended up finishing third overall. I didn’t realize until after looking at the results much later, that we had been gaining quickly on Rosie, and that if not for the delay with the moose, we might have caught her. But, I wasn’t too upset about that, since stopping for moose felt like a rite of passage for Alaska skiing.

In the days after the race, I met up with a friend and we went for a backcountry tour in the Chugach foothills. The snow was not that good, courtesy of high winds all week in the mountains, but we had a great time and it was nice to catch up. It definitely made me want to spend more time here exploring the endless wilderness and skiing in the mountains.

The Tour of Anchorage is the last domestic marathon that I will be doing this year, capping off a pretty incredible domestic season of racing all across the country. But my racing season is not quite over- up next for me is spectating the Holmenkollen and then heading north to race the Birkebeinerrennet! So stay tuned for travel and race updates from Norway!

Race photos courtesy of Jennifer Aist & Joselynn Finch