Skiing Community Comes to Girdwood for the Inaugural KMTA Classic
On Sunday, February 27th the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area (KMTA) partnered with Girdwood Nordic Ski Club (GNSC) to bring together the skiing community for a family friendly event at the Girdwood 5K Nordic Loop. The inaugural KMTA Classic drew 89 competitors to the trail, including four adorable 4-year-olds and some tough Alaskan ladies with children on their backs.
After a hard freeze and a fresh groom, the sun broke through the misty morning chill, brightening the day and the festivities. The surprisingly warm conditions may have actually given an advantage to those who brought their scaled skis when climbing the Nordic Loop’s many hills, and that led to a few kick wax mishaps for others.
The event consisted of three races: a 2K, a timed 5K and a 2x2x2 relay. Race starts were staggered throughout the course of the afternoon starting, and boasted a rich array of skiers. Anna Darnell came in first for the women’s division of the 5K with a time of 16 minutes and 57 seconds, while Ari Endestad took first for the men’s with a time of 14 minutes and 11 seconds. They each took home a $100 gift certificate and lift tickets to Alyeska Resort. Prizes were awarded to winners of all the events and included gift cards to Powder Hound Ski, Girdwood Brewery, and The Bake Shop. All participants received a free ice cream cone from the Ice Cream Shop in Girdwood and a KMTA Classic sticker. Many specially-branded GNSC wool socks were also handed out to racers, because who doesn’t need more wool socks to help us Alaskans keep our toes warm through all our winter adventures!
The Classic Celebrates the History of the 5K Nordic Loop
The KMTA Classic celebrated the history of the race loop and its users. The GNSC, with the support of a KMTA grant, is actually creating interpretive signs for the 5K Nordic Loop that highlight the l
egacy of the 1969 Junior National Ski Race and the 10K trail that was constructed for it and maintained for a decade thereafter. This trail– the first recreational-purpose trail built in Girdwood– helped bring tourism and ski racing to Alaska. In fact, the 1969 Junior National Ski Race was the first national race held by the Nordic Ski Club of Alaska. The remarkable Shirley Firth from Inuvik championed that race and, unbeknownst to many, went on to become one of the first Indigenous women to compete in international ski racing, eventually as an Olympian. The Nordic 5K Loop we know and love today is actually built over a portion of that historic 10K trail, and boasts small handmade signs hidden throughout the forest that show the original route.
Thank You to All Who Made This Possible
Events like the KMTA Classic help grow appreciation for the trail systems available in the heritage area. “These kids love the Girdwood trails, and will most likely grow up to be trail advocates and lifelong skiers.” said founding GNSC member and race coordinator Deb Essex. Access to these trails and the opportunity to host events like this would not be possible without the incredible support of the Girdwood community and its many dedicated volunteers. “The next generation of volunteers and history buffs are discovering why this is so important, and they don’t even know it yet.”
The race proceeds will help KMTA and GNSC further their respective missions. KMTA works to promote, protect, and preserve the natural and historic landscape of the region ranging from Hope to Seward, Cooper Landing to Girdwood. The GNSC’s goal is to create a world-class Nordic and Multi-Use trail system within the Girdwood valley for year round-enjoyment.
We look forward to partnering with each other for another KMTA Classic in spring of 2023.