Shop close to home to spread holiday cheer
Let’s face it: Shopping on Amazon is convenient, often offers great deals and, for those with friends and family in the Lower 48, a way to ship directly to them without Alaska’s extra postage costs. And, for last-minute shoppers like me, it’s often a convenient time-saver I admit to using more than once.
Still, it’s hard to find the same joy in the impersonal interaction that is “Amazon” – the WalMart of the Internet – than in shopping locally, bringing bags of goodies home and spending a day or two decorating packages for delivery to my friends and family.
Even the local big-box stores don’t instill that festive feeling that I get walking into a locally owned business. Shopping, for me, is not a favorite pastime, so if I have to choose between standing in a line 30-people deep to get 10 percent off a product at REI, or running over to AMH to pay a few extra dollars for the same thing, guess what? I’m going to AMH. I’d rather keep my money in the community and have lower stress levels.
We pored over the gift-giving options at many of Anchorage’s locally owned outdoor retailers to find products worthy of that someone special. We asked shop owners what sells the best, and queried experts to see what they like. We even picked out a few of our own favorites. These are my two:
ALASKA MOUNTAINEERING & HIKING
2633 Spenard Road
As the name implies, this shop offers everything the mountaineer or hiker could want, but it also is home to some of the best selection of Nordic and backcountry skis in the state. However, with the less-than-ideal snow conditions of the past few years, sales of Nordic skates have skyrocketed. These long, multipurpose blades can attach to regular ski bindings – either SNS or NNN – and allow the skater to explore large, frozen lakes like Portage or Eklutna, or speed around the track at the oval at Cuddy Park.
“The Nordic skates have been super popular for up until we get more snow,” said Jason Buttrick at AMH. “You mount whatever Nordic binding you want and then you can use the same boot that you use for skiing.”
The skates range in price from $95 to $169, the added cost being mostly attributed to the quality of the steel on each skate, Buttrick said. Each blade comes in different lengths – longer lengths tend to be used for expedition-style skating at such places as Eklutna or Portage lakes, while shorter blades are better for maneuverability and crossing over while skating. Also look for a more rounded nose on the skates used for maneuverability.
SKINNY RAVEN SPORTS
800 H St.
Another higher-selling product of the past few icy winters are shoes with studs, and the $180 to $200 you will pay for a pair of these kicks could save you thousands in doctors bills by helping you avoid a nasty fall.
At Skinny Raven Sports, where all things running can be found, there are plenty of options for skid-free winter running. My personal favorites for running are Ice Bugs, the Swedish running shoes that seems to defy ice-slicked gravity, yet crash the bank account. At close to $200, I wondered if I simply had champagne taste, until List – and other running experts at the store – backed me up.
“I’ve tried all three,” List said. “Hands-down, Ice Bugs are the best. Just look at them. It’s got twice as many studs.”
Skinny Raven carries three brands of winter running shoes with studs and one with a sandpaper style rubber finish. The studded shoes – Salomon, Inov-8 and Ice Bugs – all have advantages: Some prefer the sparsely, nine-studded Salomons for packed trail running and the Inov-8s have a bit of a wider toe box and lower platform for those who like a more natural feel. The Ice Bugs, however, are the king of no-slip shoes, with 18-plus studs per shoe.
“When you have twice as many studs, it’s hard to compete,” List said.
A few more of our favorite things
By Alejandra Buitrago
The holiday season is upon us, bringing with it the challenge of finding the perfect gift for the outdoors person in your life. Coast asked some experts and came up with a list of the perfect present options to give those hard-to-shop-for individuals.
2906 Spenard Road
Let us not forget about the outdoor woman in your life. This Strafe Boomerang Jacket, $465, has all the technology and comfort to keep the outdoor woman in your life warm and moving onto the next powder spot. Designed with Strafe’s highest level of protection against the elements, the three-layer event jacket has large hand-warmer pockets, is breathable, and with a tricot backer, is warm enough for bitter cold days.
140 Olympic Mountain Loop, Girdwood
Powder Hounds have the brand-new Saga 40 Jetforce Avalanche Airbag Pack. This innovative design is the perfect gift for backcountry riders. This is the first airbag system to use jet-fan inflation – a system that draws air from the atmosphere surrounding it. This redeployable airbag is battery-powered and inflates a 200L airbag in 3.5 seconds, giving you the lifesaving technology any adventurer needs to survive an avalanche in dangerous terrain. Powder Hound offers two sizes, the Halo 28 for $1,099, perfect for day trips, or the Saga 40, $1,150, for those longer excursions.
For the skier in your life, Powder Hounds is offering the Technica Cochise 120 Ski Boots. With tech fittings and two-piece alpine boot design, these are the perfect fit for powerful alpine skiers who also want to hit the backcountry. Not only are they versatile, but the new Techincas also include genuine Dynafit tech inserts molded into the soles – leaving you dry all day.
Also in stock are the Marker Kingpin 13 Alpine Touring Ski Bindings for $649. By substituting a pivoting cam-action, spring-actuated heel for the traditional dual pin setup, Marker has addressed the problem of limited elasticity in tech bindings. Toe retention is also enhanced with the addition of a third row of springs. Light enough for all day use, yet durable enough for reliable performance.
Foot beds are the Powder Hounds specialty, and custom carbon foot beds generally run about $189, and if you buy boots there it is $150.
Barney’s Sports Chalet
Barney’s is featuring the popular Filson Down Cruiser Vest, made in Seattle. Made with lightweight, single-source European goose down, this rain-repellent vest is quite popular this holiday season. The zipper front with snap-closure protects against wind and driving rain, and the standing wool-lined collar provides additional warmth. For $375, this is a nice addition for the person in your life who plays tough and needs their clothes to play tougher.
The Pinnacle Bag was designed for Alaska Guides by Frontier Gear of Alaska. The pack features a 7,800 cubic-inch single compartment that runs the full length of the Freighter Frame. Constructed of 500 Denier Cordura fabric with Dymeema-reinforced check stitching, and weighing just over 8.5 pounds with the frame, this pack gives capacity necessary for those extended backcountry adventures, whether it be hunting or otherwise. The pack runs $679, including the frame.
619 S. Knik-Goose Bay Road, Suite E, Wasilla
Avalanche gear is crucial to survive in backcountry. Northstar Motorsports has got you covered with all avalanche safety equipment always listed at 10 percent off. In addition to the BCA Float backpacks, which include canisters, they also have BCA beacons. The Tracker2 Avalanche Beacon, $299.95, offers the industry’s fastest, most precise pinpointing, they also have the Tracker3 Avalanche Transceiver for $335, which is 20 percent smaller and lighter than the Tracker2. With triple-receive antenna flexibility, these transceivers will keep everyone safe, from the experts to the beginner riders. They also carry shovels by Ortovox, which range from $60 to $90.