More than 300 people took the trek up messy and very muddy Arctic Valley Road Saturday afternoon to participate in the 10th Merry Marmot Festival, a fundraiser and celebration of spring to wrap up the winter season.
Women carried armloads of beer. A drummer dressed in a fake bear hat as children played on tricycles inside the day lodge. Some stopped by the event for a ski race, others to participate in fat-tire bike races, but many were just spectators enjoying the party.
A fundraiser for Arctic Valley Ski Area run by the the nonprofit Anchorage Ski Club, Merry Marmot is put together entirely by volunteers. The president of the local ski club estimated that last year's party brought in about $10,000.
By 3 p.m. the snowshoe races were underway. The oldest group of children strapped their boots into snowshoes and took off up a hill before circling, stopping to chug a Sprite, snowshoeing and hula hooping at the same time, and finally crossing a finish line marked with Easter buckets.
Thirteen-year-old Richard Gordon-Rein took an impressive lead from the start and kept it until the finish line. A seasoned pro, he said he's done this event most of his life. The key to winning for him was simple. "I just ran really fast up the hill then paced myself," said Gordon-Rein. "Also, I drank my Sprite really fast."
Spectators lining the deck suspect his victory, though, was earned partially because of his attire -- a flannel shirt and brown Carhartt pants.
While not everyone was brave enough to test their winter sporting abilities, plenty of attendees were content listening to music, gabbing with their friends and drinking red Solo cups filled with Alaska-brewed beer.