Past the clever and impressive costumes, the mothers and daughters skiing sweetly together and the temptation of a silent auction, the deeper reason for the Alaska Ski for Women unfolded in a teenager's story of violence, courage and perseverance.
At 19, Lory Miebs is one of many volunteers who keep the popular annual event running smoothly. On Sunday, she got to Kincaid Park before most skiers did to help set up the auction, pour cups of water, make signs on the fly, do whatever organizers needed her to do. The Ski for Women is a huge undertaking. This was its 16th year and it drew around 1,200 women and girls whose skiing raised money for charities that help those hurt by domestic violence.
Miebs is not a skier, though she appreciates the big fun of the event.
"Look at the Rubik's Cube!" she exclaimed as a woman dressed as one glided down the hill from the Kincaid Chalet.
But more than that, she's tied to the event's underlying purpose. Prosecutors say Miebs was stabbed repeatedly in December 2009 behind Service High School by her ex-boyfriend. She was a senior at the school and he was a year behind her. She lost a lot of blood, suffered a punctured lung, and spent a week in the hospital. Doctors told her she was lucky none of the 76 stab wounds hit a vital organ or artery.
SIGNS OF TROUBLE
She turned the horror of that day into something good. When an advocate with Abused Women's Aid in Crisis, or AWAIC, the domestic violence shelter in Anchorage, asked if she wanted counseling and other services, she flipped the question around, asking what she could do for the shelter. Now she volunteers for AWAIC throughout the year. She helped with its golf tournament, served up $1 hot chocolates downtown on New Year's Eve, and spoke before hundreds at AWAIC's annual ball. She'll soon start talking to kids in Anchorage schools, and her story has power and meaning because it's from real life, said Nicki Shinners, AWAIC development director.
Prosecutors say her attacker was Nicholas Chamberlain, just 16 at the time and charged as an adult in the case. He's now 18, jailed at Spring Creek Correctional Center and awaiting trial on charges of attempted murder, assault and evidence tampering.
Miebs said she never thought him capable of such rage but looking back, she sees red flags.
"When we first started dating, it was really good. We hung out with our friends. He was really nice, really sweet, caring, protective, that kind of thing," Miebs said, telling her story in the park chalet. Nearby, skiers were getting massages and bidding on knitted caps, Alaska excursions and even a teeth whitening service. Women gathered to ski dressed as princesses, vegetables and a giant mythical sea creature that looked like a shimmery octopus.
A BAD TRICK
After a few months, her boyfriend became jealous of her guy friends, Miebs said. He grabbed her phone and scrolled through emails and text messages. He deleted contacts. "I'd be like 'you deleted my cousin's number!' " Miebs said. They argued a lot.
In October 2009, she broke it off the day before she was set to head Outside with her mother to visit family. He followed her on and off the school bus even though it wasn't his bus. On the way to her home, he grabbed her wrists to try to make her stay put and listen. It was a small scuffle, Miebs said. But he essentially was stalking her, Shinners said.
Eventually, the teens agreed they could be friends and nothing more, Miebs said.
That year, during the lunch period on Dec. 7, he asked her to walk with him into the woods behind Service. He had a peace offering for her, a silver ring. She didn't want it, she said, but he wouldn't take no for an answer. She thought maybe she could return the ring and give him the money and that would be it.
On a trail in the woods, he told her to close her eyes and look up. It was a magic trick, he said.
But instead of a ring, "he punches a knife into my throat," Miebs said.
The force knocked her onto the ground and he straddled her.
"He's just holding me down, stabbing me in the face, stabbing me in the head, the neck, all over the place," Miebs said. "So I'm screaming at the top of my lungs for 'help, help, help!' "
She fought back and kept yelling. Two other Service kids -- a boy and a girl -- came upon them and the boy managed to pull Chamberlain off her, Miebs said. She said she was bleeding on her face, neck, head and arms but she took off running as best she could toward the school. Her glasses had been knocked off. It was hard to see. Chamberlain scrambled after her, she said, stabbing her in the back. She shed her sweater so he couldn't grab hold of it. She was almost to the school when she collapsed to the ground struggling for breath.
About then, with her ex-boyfriend still stabbing her, the other kids flagged down a passing skier, Kenneth Schulz, who called 911 and managed to get him off her for good, Miebs said.
When she first woke up in the hospital, she had a tube in her throat and another in her chest. She had to write down what she wanted to say. She let her mother know she was scared. Of her ex, or for him? her mother asked. Both, she wrote.
A REGULAR GIRL
She said Schulz and the two Service kids who stepped in are heroes. But not long after it happened, Schulz said Miebs was the courageous one. She never gave up.
Last year, she saw Schulz when she volunteered at the Ski for Women registration. His wife, Heidi, was signing up. They hugged.
AWAIC is one of the event's beneficiaries. Donations pay for part of a child advocate's salary. Miebs said she may end up using AWAIC's legal advocate to guide her through the court case.
Miebs has worked some as a personal care attendant, which she studied at Service, but is doing odd jobs for now. She said she didn't end up emotionally damaged by what happened. She was a regular girl before and she still is. Maybe her story will help others see warning signs: controlling the phone, limiting friendships, stalking and other obsessive behavior.
"You may think, 'oh wow that can never happen to me. It's so tragic.' " Miebs said. "But it comes on unexpected."