Halcyon days in Nome, Alaska to start 2006

FasterSkierJanuary 12, 2006

Nome, Alaska may not seem the most obvious place to spend New Years. However, it had one of the best community firework displays I’ve seen in a while, and at less than 150 miles from the dateline was one of the last places you have a chance to catch the New Year.

It also had some of the most fun skate skiing I’ve had since crust skiing last spring. Although locals were complaining of the sparse snow, the shore-fast ice of the Bering Sea coast had set in smooth and consistent as far as the eye could see on either side of town. Covered with a few inches of well bonded snow, temperatures relatively warm compared to my home town of Fairbanks (at ~15° F), and the fabled winds of Nome remaining mellow, skiing the 25 km of coastline to Cape Nome and back was about as great a way to start 2006 as I could imagine.

Stopping to rest or marvel at the golden glow of the sun skipping for a few hours along the icy horizon, the only noise is the sound of a heart beat, or the occasional snow machine on its way out to check crab pots lowered through holes drilled in the ice.

The skis run quickly on the hard packed snow and expanse of flat terrain, which only forced a few hundred meters of double poling over bare ice or low pressure ridges. You can cover a lot of ground like this, even in the sparse hours of daylight, passing old gold dredges and cabins dotted along the coast.

Returning to town, food waits at restaurants with enticing names that draw you in like “Fat Freddies” or the “Gluepot.” There really is no place like Nome!

This is also the end of the Iditarod Trail, for dog mushers and the hardy types who ski all 1086 miles of the Iditarod Trail Invitational at the end of February ( www.alaskaultrasport.com ). For those of you looking for longer trails than those 50 km sprints, this may be what you are looking for. However, for most like me, the first 350 miles of the trail from Knik near Anchorage to McGrath north of the Alaska Range mark one of the most challenging Alaska ski races, but it was sure nice to see the real end of the trail!


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