Winter Bike Fest: Films, fun and free parking
Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage is getting ready for one of the coolest events of the winter – its Winter Bike Fest, which kicks off Feb. 9 with a group ride from Goose Lake to Fire Island bakery. At press time event organizers were still finalizing the events that will take place over the nine-day festival.
Brian Litmans of Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage said the Bike Fest is meant to raise awareness – and money – but more than anything it’s goal is to recruit more winter cyclists.
“This is the third year running,” he said. “We wanted to promote winter riding and to also celebrate bicycling in general. We usually take a few minutes before the events to talk about major successes we’ve had in the past year, and we will talk about some of the successes we hope to have this year.”
Some of BCA’s successes include its work with the Bicycle Plan as part of the Municipal Master Plan, as well as input into the Title 21 rewrite, which will affect cyclists and the areas in which they can ride.
One of the highlights of this year’s Fest is the Feb. 13 film at Bear Tooth. The event includes Valet Bicycle Parking, so those who want to see the film can leave their bikes behind and know they will be safe and well cared-for while they enjoy the show.
“Parking is such a crush in Spenard as it is,” said Kevin Turinsky with BCA and Alaska Randonneurs. “The valet is great. There is a fenced-off area with racks and a tip jar – you always tip your valet – and you can go in knowing your bike is safe, even with its lights on and all that other stuff.”
The Bike Fest is loosely organized, starting with that Feb. 9 BCA ride, but there are a few other events in the works as well. The Alaska Randonneurs will host its Winter City 30K and 50K bike ride on Feb. 17, which takes cyclists through trails and city streets throughout Anchorage.
“It’s an urban ride, it’s not a trail ride, and it travels along from place to place so riders get to experience the whole city,” Turinsky said. “It’s not a race, but there is a time element, with points all along so riders can go through and get a receipt. It’s always been a great event.”
Turinsky said the ride likely will begin at The Peanut Farm, where it has been staged in the past. Check for an updated schedule, including times, on the Randonneurs webpage (www.alaskarandonneurs.org) or Facebook page.
The Bike Fest will wrap up Feb. 18 at the BP Energy Center for a showing of one more biking film, which is still in the works. Litmans promises it will be worth the visit.
Meanwhile, he wants to continue to promote the sport of winter cycling, and is looking for as many volunteers to help organize an even bigger and better Winter Bike Fest next year.
“There are so many neat things going on, like Chain Reactions’ Abominable Snow Series (of races),” he said. “I think all of these things are indications that we have this great winter city that is having this organic, grassroots growth.”
For more details on the Winter Bike Fest, visit the Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage webpage at www.bicycleanchorage.org.
Speedskating on the sly: Night races add thrill to going fast
Now that there are beautiful lights to brighten up the Cuddy Family Midtown Park Skating and Fitness Oval, the Alaska Speedskating Club is taking advantage of it to offer its first-ever Tuesday Night Speedskating Series. Modeled after the popular Anchorage Parks and Recreation Tuesday Night Races, the speedskating races are affordable and fun for families and adults alike. The entry fee is $5 for kids and $15 for adults.
“We just put in the lights, but we’ve had daytime races for a few years now,” said Chuck Gilbert, vice president of the speedskating club. “Now that we have the lights, we can extend the race time.”
Jim Renkert, a member of the speedskating club and Anchorage Skates (www.anchorageskates.org), said the skating oval is a boon for Anchorage, with the night races being an added bonus. Anyone can use the park – not just racers – and it’s a fun place to learn to skate, close to town.
“The mission of Anchorage Skates was to build the oval, and now that we have that it was to get lights,” Renkert said. Next up, he said, is to improve the entry plaza, add a public-address system so skaters can enjoy music and announcements during events and races, and to create a warming hut with skate rentals. Much of that is dreaming, he said, but the efforts are continuing.
“The lights are a big part of the story,” Renkert said. “Now that we’ve got those, we can have the Tuesday Night Races in winter. It complements the Tuesday Night (running) Races.”
Alaska Mountaineering and Hiking is sponsoring the Tuesday Night Speedskating Races, Gilbert said. And for those who can’t be there Tuesdays, there is a series of Sunday, daytime races as well. The sport in general, Gilbert said, seems to be growing as people realize the convenience of the ice and the health benefits of the training. Cuddy’s oval is one of only six Olympic-sized ovals in the United States. At 400 meters, it is considered a long-track course (as opposed to the shorter, hockey-rink sized ovals at indoor rinks such as the MacDonald Center in Eagle River).
“We’re seeing a lot more use of the oval,” he said, stressing that it is not just for racing. Families, kids with hockey and figure skating boots, beginners – they are all welcome at the public park. The races, he said, are just a way to showcase the oval even more, to get the word out that it is there for everyone’s enjoyment.
The new Tuesday Night Race series began in January and will continue Feb. 12 and Feb. 26. The Sunday races left this season will be Feb. 3 (a marathon, so be ready!) and Feb. 24. For more details, go to Alaska Speedskating Club’s website at www.alaskaspeedskating.com.
Mountaineering history the focus of presentation
Join longtime climber and presenter Brian Okonek as he leads a discussion on “Denali History: Early explorers and climbs,” 6:30-8:30 p.m. Feb. 12 at Loussac Library’s Wilda Marston Theatre. The event, hosted by the National Parks Conservation Association, features historic photos, discussion of early attempts to summit Denali and a comparison of today’s climbing to that of a century ago. For more details on the event contact Melissa Blair at email@example.com or 441-6722.