Alaska Ski for Women ‘party wave’ celebrates women, skiing and the return of light

Sure, there were serious racers gliding by the big scoreboard at Kincaid Park at Sunday's Ski for Women, but then there's the party wave, skiers who show up every year to wind through the trees dressed as bananas and whoopee cushions, celebrating that thing that happen about now, when the winter darkness gives way to more light.

"It's the women power," said Kate Nixon, who was dressed like a monster amanita muscaria mushroom with her buddy Jamie Trivette. "We're like, nah, to heck with it, we're going, it's minus 2, but we're out there."

The Ski for Women has been going since 1997, said Tamra Kornfield, the race director. There have been as many as 1,000 participants, but that number has slimmed down to about 500 in recent years because of the poor quality of the snow, she said. The event was started to help encourage women to ski, she said. She's still evangelical about getting women on the trails, she said.

"It's hard to get out of the house, but once you are outside, you enjoy yourself," she said. "I think skiing is the best sport. It helps you love winter, which is the only way to live here."

Luise Woelflein, Joanne Thomas, Tami Hamler and Stacey Marz came dressed as the "Shimmering Salmon," wearing silver fish costumes. The women met 20 years ago playing ultimate Frisbee, and built their costumes specifically because they wanted to wear something that caught the light.

"It's a great cause, it's fun, the light's coming back, you can see it reflecting on our fish costumes," Marz said.

Alexandra Clark organized a group, "Darlings of the Iditarod," that dressed as sled dogs pulling a sled and took home first place in the costume contest. There were 12 women and nine children in their group. All the adults are Russian speaking and getting together to prepare their costumes is something they look forward to almost as much as the race itself, she said. This was their second first place in a row and now they feel pressure to hold on to the title, she said.

"Already today we need to think about next year," she said.

Julia O'Malley

Anchorage-based Julia O'Malley is a former ADN reporter, columnist and editor. She received a James Beard national food writing award in 2018, and a collection of her work, "The Whale and the Cupcake: Stories of Subsistence, Longing, and Community in Alaska," was published in 2019. She's currently writer in residence at the Anchorage Museum.