The quiet winter days are all but over, and the Oosik Ski race signals the start of a new season in Alaska. 700 skiers participated in the Oosik Classic, and less than 40 of them came from Talkeetna.
Mild temperatures quickly gave way to a warm, sunny March day as skiers covered 50 or 25 kilometers of trail across rivers, through forests, and over muskeg. As always, a select number of competitive skiers posted fast times.
Sarah Cresap was the first female to finish the 25 kilometer race, with a time of One Hour, Thirty-seven Minutes, nearly ten minutes faster than second and third place finishers Sue Forbes and Liz Butera. Laura Wright was the first Talkeetna woman to cross the line at 2 hours, twenty-nine minutes.
West High skier Craig Schulz won the men’s 25 kilometer race in one hour, twenty nine minutes and thirty-three seconds ahead of Craig Walker and Grant Yutrzenka, both of Anchorage. Dan Harrel of Talkeetna finished with a fastest local time of two hours, ten minutes.
For the 50 k, Rebecca Konieczny of Fairbanks completed the course in 2:53, almost a minute ahead of Anchorage’s Marine Dusser and Theresa Schnurr.
In the men’s 50k, Dylan WAtts of Anchorage finished first at 2:25, followed closely by Lasse Molgard-Nielsen and Max Olex at 2:26. Talkeetna’s Galen Johnston was close behind, finishing at 2:34 for fifth place.
After the race, the skiers still able to stand could be found crowded in to the dining and drinking spots in town. The huge number of visitors in town gave a big shot in the arm to local businesses that have been waiting out the lean days of winter.
The Talkeetna Roadhouse served 211 breakfasts on Sunday alone, and owner Trisha Costello says the weekend was a good way to work out any kinks before the summer season. Costello says that the Oosik has become the busiest winter weekend at the Roadhouse, surpassing the Bachelor Auction because of the number of families that are drawn to the event.
Todd Basilone says he doubled his staff at Mountain High Pizza Pie for the weekend and was open longer hours, and the amount of traffic through the doors could easily compare to any day in May during the height of tourist season
It is hard to determine how many beds were filled over the weekend, but most lodging in town had been booked up for months prior to the event.
With warmer weather and climbing season on the way, most businesses and lodgings can look forward to increasingly busy weekends, and a return of the visitors and climbers that energize the Talkeetna visitor economy.