A competitor in the Oosik’s 50km race makes his way through the Talkeetna woods. Photo: Phillip Manning
by: Katie Writer – KTNA
The 2017 Oosik Classic Ski Race and Tour has concluded, and hundreds of skiers from the Upper Valley and elsewhere have returned to their lives. KTNA’s Katie writer spoke with one of the event’s long-time participants and organizers about this year’s Oosik.
The 12th annual Oosik Classic Ski Race and Tour has come and gone. The ever-popular ski event has tripled in size since its inception in 2005.
While the costumes and festive atmosphere add to the day’s fun, a different 25/50K course makes each year’s race unique. Nordic skiing legends such as Olympian Adam Verrier and Norwegian Trond Jensen are fond of the Oosik’s rustic appeal. Unlike the typical well-groomed wide track of today’s
A sample of this year’s festive Oosik costumes. Photo: Phillip Manning
nordic race courses, the Oosik trail is challenging and often unpredictable.
As Denali Nordic Ski Club founder, Chris Mannix explains.
“It’s this single track through the woods; you’ve got to communicate with other skiers as you pass. It’s a throwback to the early days of Nordic skiing, and I think that’s one of the attractions.”
Chris Mannix attributes the key role of the Trail Meister to the success of the event.
In the beginning, Chris and his brother, Art Mannix were not only the race organizers, but also the trail crew. They utilized Fish Lake for the start and finish area. Since then, a number of knowledgeable local woodsmen have played the role of the Trail Meister, including Mike Wood and Bill Barstow.
Putting in a ski trail entails much more than dragging a groomer up rivers and through the wilderness. There is a tremendous amount of physical labor involved in brushing out trails, building bridges over creeks, and packing down a continuous 25-50 kilometer course.
Some years, the rivers are open, even in December. In recent years, there has been barely enough snow and race organizers teetered on the edge of calling off the race.
This year’s Trail Meister, Wade Hopkins utilized the zone up and around the Talkeetna River, including Whiskey Creek and up towards Papa Bear Lake.
The Oosik has had a reputation of being flat. More than one year, the course sent skiers for a majority of the miles up the Chulitna River. As beautiful it was to look up at Denali, the lack of variation of terrain led to boredom for the skiers. Not this year. With the steep and winding descents of the Talkeetna Ridge Trail, even the most experienced skiers were challenged.
“Yeah, I biffed big time at the bottom of that hill. It didn’t go smoothly for me, and I’ve been skiing that hill since the ‘80s.”
The flats that followed by the airport and various feed stations gave the skiers time to recover before the last grueling 3-kilometer climb to the finish at the Alaskan Lodge.
“The atmosphere that surrounds the Oosik is one of the things that make it special. Some other races, you get off the course, maybe chat for a few minutes, grab some food to eat, then off you go—you go home. But…Adam’s original intent was to make it more of an end of season get-together for Nordic skiers across Alaska.”
While the race is over, numerous local skiers and mushers are out enjoying this year’s Oosik trail as long as the snow conditions permit.