When Hannah Corral looked at the tours available in Fairbanks, she saw plenty of aurora borealis tours and dog sled tours but not much skiing so she fixed that.
Skiing has been a big part of life in Alaska for Corral, who grew up in Fairbanks and Southcentral. She shares her knowledge of backcountry skiing through Northbound Alaska Ski Tours.
For $65 an hour — or $30 hourly for children under 14 — “guides will take you to the best-kept local secrets of Fairbanks,” according to the company website.
Corral provides ski gear and tours on frozen rivers, through forests and along hills with sweeping views. She guides all levels of ability, including people who have never put on skis.
The 36-year-old musician and carpenter is a 2001 West Valley High School graduate. Her father, Roy Corral, is an award-winning photojournalist.
“I have been skiing since I was 2,” she said.
She skied competitively, winning medals, and won a full-ride cross country skiing scholarship at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, she said, but quit halfway through time trials and moved to Palmer.
“I just wanted to be in the mountains,” she said. “I back-country skied all of the time.”
She moved to the Lower 48, made music and was living in New Orleans when she found she missed the snow.
“I came home,” she said.
She started the ski tour business last year.
I met Corral on a pullout off of Ester Dome Road for a quick ski on some trails known as the Ester Dome Singletrack.
She arrived early in a blue pickup with two sets of all-mountain skis in the bed. The skis look a little like a snowboard that has been cut in half with bindings that attach to regular snow boots. They are shorter and wider than ordinary cross-country skis and have skins on the bottom to grip the snow for trekking uphill.
Corral fastened the skis over my boots and asked how I felt about getting off the trail and into the snow.
Her vision for the ski tour business is to introduce skiing to more novices and help foster a welcoming and inclusive ski culture in Fairbanks.
“I have been thinking about this since probably I was about 25,” she said. “I want to make skiing more accessible to folks who have never skied before.”
She would like to introduce skiing to more children in Fairbanks and in rural Alaska, she said.
Corral worries that something has gotten lost as gear has gotten more sophisticated and skiing has gotten more competitive.
“There needs to be more of an inclusive seeding stream of people getting excited about it,” she said. “All you need is a pair of skis and the willingness to get out.”
Corral said she guides people in temperatures down to 20 below. She offers day tours and night tours.
Bookings can be made through her company website, www.northboundskitours.com.
Residents of Fairbanks are fortunate to have so many opportunities for backcountry skiing, Corral said.
“Here is this whole world open to us in Fairbanks,” she said.
Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.