Ski for Light International Week
February 22 - March 2, 2014
This was my first time attending the International Ski for Light event but it certainly will not be the last. It was truly a fun as well as inspiring week. The event was very well organized and jam-packed with skiing related as well as non-skiing events. The SFL volunteers who put on this event are a truly dedicated and hard-working group
To provide some pertinent statistics: There were 121 guides, almost evenly divided among males (60) and females (61). Of these guides, 30 were first year guides and 10 second year guides. Guides and participants came from all over the United States as well as several foreign countries
Prior to the event, I had already made contact with a number of the Washington guides and participants, many from the Puget Sound SFL chapter, and travelled on the same flight to Anchorage with many of them. One of the guides, Dede Chinlund, was also my roommate. Becoming friends with so many guides and participants at International SFL has certainly paved the way for my continued involvement in Puget Sound SFL activities - hiking as well as skiing!
For me, as a first year attendee, the week started on Saturday night with a dinner with fellow first and second year guides as well as the guide and participant trainers. On Sunday, we broke into groups of 6 trainees, each with a seasoned guide and participant who spent the entire day on the trails with us. While I did not end up with super-trainer Dave Fisk as my guide trainer, the trainers in my group, guide John Elliott and participant Marie Pacini, were excellent. By the afternoon I was much less apprehensive about guiding. Almost daily guide meetings at either the beginning or end of each day where we received additional advice and could ask questions based on our guiding experience also helped a great deal. The participants arrived on Sunday and our skiing started on Monday. I was paired with a participant, Deng Kong, who is also the president of the Puget Sound SFL chapter. She was also an accomplished skier with a great attitude - all of which helped to put me at ease as her guide.
Despite the rather meager amount of snow, superb grooming each night and temperatures which stayed between 15 and 25 degrees made for good skiing until Thursday, when the temperature zoomed up to the mid 40’s and left the trails, by late afternoon, a slushy mess. Overnight freezing resulted in un-skiable terrain, so we were unable to have the usual last day races, the so-called “Olav Pedersen Race and Rally”. But with such a resilient group, we just accepted that fact and still had the opening ceremonies followed by lunch. The week proved to be much more than skiing. There were several special interest presentations in the 5:15 to 6:15 PM timeframe each night, some related to skiing, many not, such as “Get the Picture: What an iPhone Camera Can do for Blind Users”, “Waxing Techniques”, “Massage and Stretching After Exercise”, “Sea Kayaking Trips in Prince William Sound”, and “Information Session on Guide Dogs”. Each night after dinner there was some type of entertainment, often dancing to either a band or a DJ (this group seems to love dancing). One night we were entertained by a local folk singer and another night we were on our own. Some went on a horse-drawn sled ride. Others, including myself, elected to go to a local bar where they were having an open mike night. Several people from the SFL group participated. Yes there is great talent among SFLers!
On the last Saturday, usually a ski day, we instead saw the ceremonial start to the Iditarod, which started a couple of blocks from our hotel. Snow was trucked in and placed on 4th Ave and that is where the dogs started out this 11 mile ceremonial ride. What made it especially fun, aside from seeing 71 teams of 12 dogs each, all eager to get running, was that each sled sold a seat on the sled to anyone willing to put up $2000. SFL paid for such a seat on one of the sleds and then raffled off the seat, effectively turning it into a fund-raiser for SFL. The SFLer who won the raffle, Ingrid O'Connor, gave us a very detailed and captivating account of her ride that evening at dinner.
For me it was a week of learning to be a better x-country ski guide and an opportunity to make many new friends, aside from just plain having fun. And I came home impressed with the infectious enthusiasm and energy shown by my fellow SFLers. What a group!