Nordic Skating: Selawik to Kotzebue

Roman wrote up some notes in detail.

I’ve been anxious to see Northwest Alaska, it has always fascinated me. The true arctic, land of the wooly mammoth. I got to visit Kotzebue, Noatak, and Kivilana as one of the Nana Nordic volunteers, which left me with a sense that that land would be very hard to travel on foot. Skis would be good, skates would be better! With Alaska seriously snow-deprived, I started looking into a frequent-flier mile trip to Kotz. My first thought was to skate from Noatak back to Kotzebue because I really liked the village of Noatak. But Timm Nelson told me the river was still open. Seth Kantner, in Kotz, suggested Selawik Lake, so that’s where we headed. Roman Dial had only been on skates once, but was hooked.

The sun was 3 degrees above the horizon at its highest. We travelled 60 miles the first day, never taking off the skates. Day two was 20 miles of ice, then 20 miles on a snowmachine track to town. The roads in Kotz were covered with a sheen of ice from freezing rain. We were able to skate the road, right over the double yellow line, up and over a bridge, it was so cool!

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11 Comments

    1. Super cool.

      Elbow pads and helmets are nice on ice. Knee pads are handy for cook/brew/snack breaks, digging into packs to (de)layer, or lower photog perspectives… 🙂

  1. This is so cool. I love the colors in the sky from the sun being so low, looks like a pretty sweet aurora too. can’t imagine how great it must’ve been in person.

  2. So cool!
    Wonder if you could have biked it on a studded fatty??
    Keep your stick on the ice, eh!

  3. Wow. I had no idea that ice skating can be so cool. Thanks for the vid and the words (including Roman’s).

  4. Great stuff! Luc, what is your reasoning (and verdict) for using the Dynafit boots for skating? I am drawn to skating as it would allow nice trips especially on the shoulder seasons (here in southern Finland, if the weather complies), but based on my very brief experience on some low ski boots and ice climbing boots, skating feels super flimsy (guess I don’t have the strongest ankles either), so been wondering if I should just use my NTN telemark boots, if I can find some strapped bindings to fit them on to (or a cheap NTN bindings, not easy to come around though).

    1. Hi Joni. I’m surprised skates are government handouts in Finland, you must have incredible ice!

      I don’t know anyone that has tried the strap-on bindings, but my hunch is that you don’t want them. Strap-ons make sense for something like snowshoes where you don’t need any control, but I think you want a rigid attachment to skis and skates. I would recommend picking up low-end skate boots and bindings (preferably SNS, and definitely skate, not classic, for the extra ankle support). I’m not familiar enough with NTN to know if you could hack a toe piece. The original NTN boots had Dynafit inserts in the toes, didn’t they? There are a few snowboard shops that sell Dynafit toe pieces.

      1. Yup, something solid is probably the best. I actually just ran across Skyllermarks bindings (Möja) that have a solid toe piece also fitting NTN, though heel will be locked as well (my Garment boots don’t have the Dynafit inserts, Scarpa and Crispi do, otherwise would consider something what you have). Could give it a try, I guess you’ve been ok with extra weight of the ski boots, which is my only concern using telemark boots. Will give it a fair try this winter.

      2. I wouldn’t worry about extra weight. The extra ankle support and warmth are worth it.

        I actually really like having the free hinge. I experimented with strapping my heel down, but ended up removing it. I have 55cm skates. If I had shorter skates, locking the heel down would probably work better.

  5. Thanks for the input – as it turned out I ended up with Dynafit as well, having changed my telemark boots to a slimmer (and Dynafit compatible) model from Scarpa. First trip done (plus some early testing), and it worked great, also experimenting with a kite now when I have unparalleled control over my lower legs. Few words about the setup in my personal blog.

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