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Colleen Mondor

Towed Behind an Airplane on Skis

Here's the latest stunt that maybe shouldn't have happened in the first place: a skier being towed behind a plane on a large snowfield. From the description, the skier is Reese Hanneman, the winner of the classic sprint at the 2014 U.S. Cross Country Championships, and the towing took place somewhere on the Alaska Range. Hanneman later tweeted the video to his followers on Twitter.In case you were wondering, the Federal Aviation Regulations do address towing specifically, under Part 91. There is a section (FAR 91.309) regulating the towing of gliders and unpowered ultralight vehicles. And there is a subsequent regulation (FAR 91.311) that states "No pilot or civil aircraft may tow anything with that aircraft (other than under 91.309) except in accordance with terms of a certificate waiver issued by the Administrator." There's also a regulation against "careless and reckless" operation, which would probably apply here as well.So, either the pilot of this Aviat Husky holds special permission to pull Hanneman around the mountains, or he did well to make sure the videographer never captured his tail number in the video.If you think this looks a little too chilly, you can check out the wakeboarding-behind-an-aircraft video that was posted over at Flying Magazine's website last fall. It also included a champion athlete -- wakeboarding world champion Bernhard Hinterberger -- though it was filmed in Italy. In this case, Hinterberger actually became airborne, along with the aircraft. Maybe Hanneman and his pilot friend will take this as a challenge -- unless the FAA catches them first.Contact Colleen Mondor at colleen(at)alaskadispatch.com.
Tara Young

Back in 1968, Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the organization that became Special Olympics, the world's largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities. The first official Special Olympics Winter Games were held in 1977 in Colorado. Since Eunice’s daughter Maria Shriver was married at the time to a former Mr. Universe, Arnold Schwarzenegger, it makes sense that powerlifting was added to the roster of the Special Olympics competitions.Powerlifting consists of three lifts: squat, bench press and deadlift, all with the maximum weight possible. In a typical competition, an athlete has three attempts at each lift. Since Special Olympics athletes have a range of abilities and disabilities, they can choose to attempt all or only one of the lifts during the competition.Southside Strength and Fitness is an Anchorage gym that specializes in strength training. Hal and Marvel Lloyd have volunteered the gym and their time to help train the Special Olympics powerlifting team since becoming owners of Southside in 2010. The gym is its own little community, and the athletes working out there show support for their Special O colleagues. Bobby Hill, who has Down syndrome, has been powerlifting 15 years and is a top competitor in Alaska, with a cumulative lift of about 830 pounds over all three events during last year's state competition. He’s also known and loved in Anchorage as the mascot for the Anchorage Aces hockey team. Richard Renwick, another top Special Olympics athlete, is good pals with Bobby, and it’s not uncommon to hear them trash-talking as they recover from a set of lifts.Renwick has been powerlifting for 16 years, and over all three events in last year's state Special Olympics competition, he cumulatively powerlifted 924 pounds. Renwick began weightlifting in high school and says it helped him “get more stronger, more endurance, and more in shape.” The competition makes him happy. “I hear people cheering me on and stuff, and I feel that,” he said. Southside Strength and Fitness will host the qualifying meet for the 2014 Special Olympics state competition on May 10. The state games will be held at East High School in Anchorage on the first weekend in June. The Special O powerlifting team coaches are all volunteers. You can help by coaching, sponsoring an athlete, or by cheering them on at the competitions, which are open to the public.Watch this video on Vimeo or YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Tara Young at tara(at)alaskadispatch.com.
Tara Young

Kayak Surfing Turnagain Arm Bore Tide - April 3, 2014

A bore tide is a phenomenon in which a tide that creates a wave goes against the current of a narrow body of water. Bore tides typically occur after extreme minus low tides created by the full or new moon. There are just a few places in the world where this occurs -- extremely few in North America. One such place is Turnagain Arm in Cook Inlet. Each season, the bore tide brings kayakers, surfers, and paddle boarders to Southcentral Alaska, to ride the waves. In some parts of Asia, bore tides can reach up to 30 feet high. The ones in Alaska are closer to 6 feet, but they are considered some of the largest because of the length of the waves, at times more than 40 miles. The word bore derives through Old English from the Old Norse word bára, meaning "wave" or "swell".Whitewater kayakers Chad Hults and James Russell set out April 4, 2014 take on the bore tide. The result is a wonderful ride using a natural phenomenon in Anchorage’s backyard. Be sure to watch them ripping the second wave farther down Turnagain Arm past Girdwood, action set to the tune of "Riders on the Storm." The official 2014 tide schedule is distributed by Chugach State Park.
Tara Young
Nome Stories is a multimedia project created by artists Katie Basile and Erica Rudy. Inspired by projects like One in 8 Million, StoryCorps, and Boise Voices, the series was designed to teach multimedia skills to students at the Anvil City Science Academy while capturing an oral history of the Northwest Alaska hub community of Nome. Teachers Todd Hindman, Lisa Leeper and Teresa Hargung worked with fifth through eighth graders who came to the project with a wide range of video and audio production experience. The intent is to celebrate local people who are connected to the places they live in meaningful ways. From a boatmaker to a painter to a King Islander who grew up in Nome and then moved back as an adult, all of the subjects have a strong connection to the community.Nome is a tight-knit community with a diverse group of residents from many different ethnicities and Alaska Native tribes. The harsh environment can be isolating but also tends to spur creativity. Many artists and craftsmen inhabit this gold rush town.Basile and Rudy say they feel perceptions of Alaska are skewed by reality TV, and they wanted to present an alternate narrative. “So much of the media we come in contact with is either sensationalized or completely fictitious. I think we tend to make heroes out of celebrities who don't necessarily look or act authentically. I'd like to see Alaskan youth exposed to media and creating media that is representative of real people in their communities,” says Basile.The production tasks were divided, with the younger students conducting the interviews and the older kids running audio and editing video. The students used point-and-shoot cameras, iMovie, and Garage Band to shoot and edit the pieces. The interviews were recorded at KNOM radio station, and the website was designed by Rudy with input from the students. 
Tara Young
Filmmaker Luc Mehl and his friend Derek Collins decided to ski from Aniak to Dillingham through Wood-Tikchik State Park in southwestern Alaska. Their 250-mile route took 14 days to complete and was completely self-sufficient. What's more, they only spent $105 on airport fees and white gas.The trip was a way for the two friends to traverse the landscapes of their youths. Luc grew up in McGrath, a remote village with a population of 500 off the road system on the Kuskokwim River, and Derek grew up in Dillingham and in the village of Aleknagik at the southern end of the Wood-Tikchik lakes.Since it's been such a dry winter, Mehl was concerned about snow conditions, and he put out a call to friends to see if there was enough snow to ski the route. According to Mehl's website, "Alan Dick, a family friend from Lime Village, told me about the cat-track to Cripple Creek mine. Eventually a low-snow plan emerged ... we’d put tech ski bindings on Nordic ice skates for the Aniak River, then jump up to the cat-track once there was enough snow."The highlight of their adventure was ice skating 50 miles of the route on Nordic skates. It was an epic adventure on a route through the raw wilderness of the Alaska landscape.
Tara Young

Challenge Alaska has been teaching adaptive skiing and snowboarding to disabled adults and children for 33 years. Located at the base of Alyeska Mountain in Girdwood, Alaska, the building has a cozy familial feel that belies its nature as a cutting edge facility for an adaptive recreation program. Challenge Alaska Ski and Snowboard School instructor Jeremy Anderson says the organization is prepared to work with would-be skiers and snowboarders of every ability and comfort level:“Anybody that walks through these doors, gets wheelchaired through these doors, or gets carried through these doors, or happens to stumble in this building, we can get them sliding in the snow, with any piece of equipment that we have. And sometime it’s no equipment.” First-timers start out with an assessment and are started out on any of a number of different kinds of equipment “depending on their attitude, their confidence, and what their goals are.” The program accommodates a range of disabilities: physical, developmental, cognitive, as well as warriors back from service and some youth at risk. They also have a visiting athlete program. This year Jeff Heinz of Michigan made his first trip to Alaska to spend the week at Challenge. Heinz was paralyzed in a motocross accident just a couple of years ago but is now back to ripping up the mountain with friends back home. He first heard about Challenge at a race in Michigan, and within a day of skiing Alyeska, he was tackling the North Face in his sitski with speed and grace. This year, approximately 250 registered Challenge volunteers will put in 14,000 hours with the program. Some instructors only come to work the hill twice a year, other every weekend, and some every day. “The fact is, everybody deserves a chance to slide on the snow,” Anderson says. “And if you believe that -- and all of our Challenge family believes that -- you just go out and try to get people feeling what we feel when we’re out there. Basically we’re using skiing as a vehicle to promote social skills, confidence building, and physical fitness. And all that comes full circle back around, and you’ll see people doing better in school, finding new hobbies, being motivated when they’re not on the hill.”Members feel like one big extended family. One March weekend found Anna Boltz, 7, and her gal pals having a slumber party at the facility, with karaoke, a game of Headbanz, cookies, and waffles for breakfast. The party was co-hosted by able-bodied Jazzy Golly, 11; her dad, Tracy Golly, has been a dedicated volunteer ski instructor with Challenge Alaska for 17 years, and now Jazzy is training to become an instructor herself. Tracy Golly has spent the last two years teaching Logan, 7, who is non-verbal autistic, how to ski. When Logan first arrived at Challenge he refused to even put ski boots on. But after a season of patience and persistence Golly was able to get him up the hill, and even to utter a rare expression for Logan: “happy.” A former volunteer, Ira Edwards, was working Ranger for Alaska State Parks, when a leaning tree fell on him and shattered his spine. Now Edwards is a Challenge client, currently prepping for next month's extreme skiing and snowmachine competition, Arctic Man. And then there's Randy Finch, who brings upbeat energy to the group. Finch says when he tells people about his winters skiing Alyeska they think it’s about the physical act, but for him, “it’s about being with friends, helping people on the mountain and keeping the energy level going, and keeping people pumped up about (skiing), and going out on the mountain and skiing with them.”“And they let me be me,” Finch said. “There’s no restrictions, there’s no barriers here. They take me for who I am, and I’m a real crazy cat sometimes. But it’s means the world to me. It’s something I hope to be part of for a very long time.”Watch this video on Vimeo or Youtube, and subscribe to our Youtube channel for more great videos. Contact Alaska Dispatch videographer Tara Young at tara(at)alaskadispatch.com.
Tara Young
Outdoor superstore Cabela's is finally establishing a brick-and-mortar presence on the Last Frontier, with a 100,000-square-foot retail outlet opening April 10. Columnist Craig Medred, the outdoorsman with an opinion about everything, couldn't wait that long. Come along on a sneak peek of the new store as he checks out hunting, fishing and camping gear, suggests additions to the onsite fish tank, and peppers a very patient Cabela's representative with questions about the store's taxidermy displays.Watch this video on Vimeo or YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Tara Young at tara(at)alaskadispatch.com.
Alaska Dispatch

Amazing America (Original Theme Song) - Madison Rising

Get ready, America, the theme song to "Amazing America" hosted by former half-term Governor and 2008 republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin has been released, and it could make you want to put "one hand on your heart. One fist in the air."The song gets rock star treatment by Madison Rising, a rock band that "promotes the principles of liberty, independence, smaller government and personal responsibility," and is best known for performances at NASCAR races, NFL games and the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (where Palin was keynote speaker).In line with Madison Rising's superlative tagline, "America's most patriotic rock band," the band's Palin theme song is full of choice lines praising the country where "nature provides and God gives the rights," and reminding Americans about everything they have to be grateful for, including (but not limited to) "dogs, horses, trucks and guns."Palin, "the First Lady of the Outdoors," begins her hosting duties Thursday, April 3 on the Sportsman Channel. A free download of the theme song is available online.
Tara Young
Savoonga is a small village (population 670) on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea, considered the remaining non-submerged portion of the land bridge that once connected Asia and North America in the prehistoric era. As their ancestors did thousands of years ago, residents rely on subsistence hunting and gathering. Creating and selling traditional art helps many residents bring in money for fuel and utilities. Artist Jason Iya was born in Nome and raised in Savoonga. He learned how to practice subsistence, gather materials and carve walrus ivory from his father and the other carvers in his village. Iya was encouraged to pursue his art, which he did with vigor. After mastering carving in Savoonga, Iya spent years trying to navigate the art world in Anchorage, only to return to Savoonga to live a traditional lifestyle. He hunts, carves and digs for prehistoric materials to use in his work and to sell.Iya creates what he calls transformation art -- animals and humans turning into one another, a spiritual anthropomorphism in motion. He was influenced by the prehistoric dolls he’s read about. The Eskimos of the Okvik period (from A.D. 1 to 700) created objects that related to the Arctic sea mammal hunting lifestyle. Iya says he was most influenced by dolls that portray different emotions and states of being -- “sadness, death, movement, Godly spiritual-cultural connection.”Iya says his work travels one big step from his ancestors. He uses modern tools such as power buffers, whereas his ancestors carved everything by hand. Still, there is a stylistic and thematic connection that Iya feels whenever he’s making art.The market for Alaska Native artwork has changed. While demand is growing -- and many Alaska galleries sell the work -- artists are trying to reach venues and markets outside the state. The Internet is a powerful tool that can help rural Alaska artists reach a new audience. Connectivity in rural villages is still an issue. Weather can shut down communications and prevent planes from landing, which affects the ability to ship items in a timely fashion. But as Internet access improves, the hope is that rural Alaska Native artists will reach new collectors and maintain their way of life while improving their livelihoods.Watch this video on Vimeo or YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Tara Young at tara(at)alaskadispatch.com.
Tara Young
In "Yukon Kings," we visit the Yukon River to meet Yup’ik fisherman Ray Waska. It’s the summer salmon run, and Ray needs to pass along fishing skills to the next generation. Ray is confident that his grandchildren will keep on fishing, but he fears that their subsistence way of life may come to an end. The Yup’ik depend on the salmon for not only their sustenance, but also their livelihood. Even living a subsistence lifestyle, Waska and his family still need money for food basics, equipment, fuel and utilities. For years king salmon populations have been in decline on the Yukon, but the reasons are poorly understood."Yukon Kings" was produced by the Global Oneness Project, which uses film and photography to stimulate discussion about culture, ecology, and environmental issues.Contact Tara Young at tara(at)alaskadispatch.com.
Alaska Dispatch

Explore the Polar Bear Capital of the World with Google Maps

You can now pay a virtual visit to wild polar bears on the tundra via Google Street View.“The whole thing is going to be really exciting,” said Krista Wright, executive director of the conservation group Polar Bears International, which partnered with Google on the project. “You have the opportunity to see polar bears in natural habitat. There’s imagery of sparring bears -- this behavior that we see with male bears where they stand up on their hind legs and kind of play fight. There’s images of a mom nursing a cub.”Wright said the goal is to connect people to polar bears and inspire them to gain a better understanding of how climate change is affecting the Arctic, including what impact it is having on bears and other creatures that depend on sea ice.Read more: Google Street View maps polar bear country in Canada
Yereth Rosen

1964 Quake

The Great Alaska Earthquake was the most powerful on record in North America, but the superlatives go beyond that. The 1964 earthquake changed the understanding of geology, spawned numerous programs to track quakes and warn citizens of tsunami dangers and greatly enhanced the public’s awareness of emergency preparedness.To commemorate the 50th anniversary, the U.S. Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other organizations have gathered archival information to share with the public. A new USGS video compiles some rarely seen historical footage with scientific retrospectives and explanations that remain relevant half a century after the Magnitude 9.2 shaker struck."This is an incredible story. We've got great old film footage, revolutionary science and some remarkable geologists who've really made a difference," USGS video producer Stephen M. Wessells said in a statement. "It's been exciting to learn how two generations of scientists have sorted out the details and clarified the threats."Government agencies, community groups, museums and other organizations are also planning a series of anniversary events. President Barack Obama has declared March 23-29 Tsunami Preparedness Week. Several government agencies, including The Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, have organized a special “Great Alaska ShakeOut” drill to be held 1:36 p.m. on March 27, 2014. The annual international drill, in which Alaska traditionally participates, is scheduled for Oct. 16, 2014.Alaska’s is not the only earthquake anniversary that will be observed in 2014. This December will mark the 10th anniversary of the deadliest tsunami in history, the Indian Ocean catastrophe that killed nearly 228,000 people, according to the latest estimates. Those giant waves were triggered by an earthquake of Magnitude 9.1 or 9.2 (estimates vary) that, like the Alaska quake, occurred when one tectonic plate slipped beneath another.Update: An earlier version of this story put the death toll of the Indian Ocean quake at more than 150,000 and the magnitude at 9. Estimates for these figures vary depending on the source; this story has been updated with figures from the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program and the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center.

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