Border to Border Ski Event Lifts Spirits

    Participants in Saturday's Border To Border ski event move down Salmon Creek Trail.

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - A popular Finnish skiing event coaxed nearly 70 Juneau outdoor enthusiasts onto the cross-country ski trails of Juneau on Saturday.

      Modeled after the Rajalta Rajalle-Hiihto (From Border To Border - Skiing) ski across Finland, Juneau’s version of the Border to Border has in its sixth year become a fixture for local classic and skate-style cross-country skiers celebrating the longer days of spring. Participants ski all Juneau Nordic trails in one day, or as many of them as they choose.

      “It is a great way to celebrate something that is really special about Juneau,” co-organizer Merry Ellefson said. “Our trails literally go from sea level to glaciers, empty out into the sea and to the mountain tops. No place else has that. Not even in Norway. Seriously though, the diversity of our trails is not replicated very many places.”

      The idea for the event came after Ellefson, Tristan Knutson-Lombardo, Jess Brown and Lindy Jones and Colleen Jones skied the actual Rajalta Rajalle in Finland, although that ski is a 420 kilometer ski tour in northern Finland that follows a route near the Arctic Circle from the border with Russia to the border with Sweden and is a bucket list item for many cross-country skiers.

      “You ski in groups of 30 or more and you meet people from all over the world,” Ellefson said. “It is not a race. You finish each day by a certain time, there are dinners, and saunas. It is just a great time. When we came home we thought ‘that was so cool, what can we do in Juneau to celebrate skiing?’ So the next year we started our own Border to Border and the thinking behind it was let’s ski all the groomed trails in Juneau in one day.”

      The Juneau route is 46 kilometers and features Pioneer Road (11 km), the Eaglecrest Nordic Lower Loop (14 km), Salmon Creek (6 km), Montana Creek (6 km) and the Mendenhall Campground and Lake (9 km).

      “I have a vision of growing it to a couple day event,” Ellefson said. “Because you meet people and it is always a nice way to stay healthy. It does not matter about your ability. It is just about getting out there and trying something different.”

      The community-building Border to Border ski is a collaboration between the Juneau Nordic Ski Club and Eaglecrest.

      This year’s organizing committee included Ellefson, C. Jones, Peter Ord, Jeannie Monk, Aldyn Brudie, Hank Lentfer, Jenny Stromfeld, Mike Hekkers, and Jordan Tanguay. Aside from coordinating grooming, supplies, ensuring safety, and promotions they give out awards.

      Linnea Lentfer, Annika Schwartz, and Lindsay McTague earned the Jungle Animal Award for completing the course and finishing in shorts; dad Bob Trousil and daughter Malea Lou earned The Family Slide for all waxed skiing; the Groovy Award was shared by Megan Buzby, for her first B2B, and Naomi Staley for skiing it every year; and Norm Cohen earned the Wild Creature Award for completing the whole course in scale skies.

      “I am not fast at all,” Cohen said. His classic skis slowly shuffling forward, his smile as wide as the distance between stride lengths. “But I don’t have to be. I just enjoy being here.”

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