By Denise Caposey
Another Buckwheat Ski Classic come and gone, and another ski year spent. Time slips away faster all the time. No one ever tells you that, and you don’t really get it anyway, when you’re young and waiting around for something to happen. That’s how the Buckwheat Ski Race all started back in the good old days, an idea to bring new faces to Skagway and a way to meet chicks. At least that’s how I heard it from the race’s namesake, Mr. Buckwheat Donahue himself.
Now in its 35th year, the race was once again on the beautiful British Columbia ski trails. Last year, you’ll recall, the race was at Lower Lake on the Dewey Trail System. The Log Cabin Ski Society makes the decisions and coordinates all the logistics of this event, which wouldn’t be possible without its many steadfast volunteers.
We were in the throes of another COVID year last season, and it was decided to make the most of the copious amounts of snow that fell here on the coast. The course went around Lower Lake, and if you were a racer, you did this course several times to make it a traditional 5K or 10K race.
With TEMSCO Helicopter assists, many folks seized the opportunity to get outside and ski around or just came up to enjoy the barbeque and watch the COVID ball drop, so to speak. We had over 200 Skagwegians attend. Once again, an amazing event was pulled off in what appeared to be seamless fashion.
Those behind the scenes of the Buckwheat Ski Classic know the amount of work this race entails. Trail Crew Boss Cory Thole wrangles folks who run the machines that groom and set track. Stuart Brown helps keep those machines running. Tim Bourcy and Don Corwin work tirelessly at the BBQ pit. Locals provide transportation and housing for our visiting teams and guests, and ALL this gets done, by the people of Skagway. We sure know how to throw a party.
The Buckwheat Ski Classic is the start of the season. That’s why it was sad to see few Skagway folks at the race this year. Only six of us registered to race.
The hoops we had to jump through to get into Canada made things more cumbersome than usual for the U.S. volunteers and racers. The Canadian border required proof of vaccination, the ArriveCAN app filled out no more than three days in advance and current negative COVID test results. Since the best we can do is a molecular test that is good for 72 hours, that gave us three days of border crossings before we would need another current negative test.
Thanks to the Skagway Tribal Council (STC) and their crew, we were able to obtain the necessary tests to satisfy the Canadian Border Patrol and get most of us through. STC did this testing free of charge and even extended their testing window to accommodate race participants. Thank you to Sarah Kinjo-Hischer and volunteer Rory Bricker, it made things seem more doable. Still, not many Skagway folks were willing or able to jump through all the hoops and were missed this year. You know who you are.
I guess this is the point of my dissertation. Skagway, Alaska, this tiny little port town in the remote far north reaches of the USA, hosts and welcomes our Yukon Territory Canadian neighbors, in a tiny little corner of the world under what in Canada is considered Queensland. This Queen’s Land happens to be in British Columbia, Canada, whose border is just 15 miles from Skagway. Isn’t it just fascinating how we made this international event happen, given the pandemic and Putin’s war just over the horizon? Two years of fearing the dreaded COVID and now a war looms? This is insane!
But on Saturday, I blissfully skied my 10-kilometer race alongside my friends and neighbors from the North, and I actually forgot about the threat of nuclear war for a while. I forgot to keep six feet apart too, as we all went in for hugs and congratulations at the finish line. For a few hours I forgot how old I am, and afterwards sat and pondered how many Buckwheat Ski Classics I’ve participated in. As I relished my hot dog in the snow sculptured wind break of the Aid Station with my trusty ski buddy, Nan Saldi, we weren’t thinking about war or the pandemic, we were thinking maybe the race registration should have a senior division, for old skiers like us. Who knows, maybe I could still medal?
Signing off, this is Ms. Caposey, proud to be a veteran Buckwheater. BIG thanks to all the volunteers who make this spring ski extravaganza so much fun for all, skiers and non-skiers alike. I hope to see you all up there next year. Peace.