Skiers roll, paddle and skate their way into funds

Last Saturday, under clear blue skies with not a patch of snow in sight and temperatures in the mid-40s, the Mariner ski team was outside, once again, making the best of it. Instead of calling off the team’s scheduled “ski-athon” event and adding to a long list of disappointing cancellations this season, coaches Alison O’Hara and Alan Parks morphed the fundraiser into a competition as unique as this winter’s weather. 

Over the course of five hours, the 10 participating Mariners roller skied, roller skated, kayaked, mountain biked, fat-tire biked, ran and kicked a soccer ball to a combined total of 318 kilometers in their impromptu “Skate, Paddle, and Roll-athon.”

Prior to the event, the Mariners had collected per kilometer donation pledges from their friends and families, which will help cover the team’s costs for the rest of the season. 

Assistant ski coach Gus Beck said spirits were high as team members passed in and out of event headquarters at Mariner Park throughout the course of the day to swap gear, fuel up on chili, compare the mileage on their pedometers and soak in the sunshine. 

“At the core of it, the team is just as happy to be outside and exercising as they were from the very beginning,” said Beck. 

The Mariners are scheduled to compete in the Kenai Klassic race this weekend, but all predictions point to another cancellation. Instead, the team intends to head farther north in search of snow by traveling to Anchorage to ski on the lighted trails at Hillside ski area Friday evening.

On Saturday, they will take to the snow on the Government Peak Ski Trails in Hatcher’s Pass, designed by former Olympian Bill Spencer. The Mariners intend to finish off their weekend on Sunday with a ski tour around the buildings of the Independence Mine, also in Hatcher’s Pass. 

Beck said that planned weekend of snow time will more than make up for the disappointment of another competition called off. He feels team morale is still high, in large part thanks to O’Hara and Parks’ creativity and dedication to keeping practice interesting through the less than ideal winter conditions. 

“I keep telling the (Mariner) kids, ‘We’re still a ski team,’” said Beck.

Then, thinking of last weekend’s fundraiser, Beck added, “But we’re building some really great soccer players.” 

Lindsay Olsen is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.