Fairbanks winters are cold and dark, which makes it that much more important to get outside and be active. Research shows that physical activity is good for your mind and body.
Research also shows that spending time outside in nature is good for your mind. Both reduce stress and help fight depression, so exercising outdoors is an excellent way to stay positive in winter.
New to outdoor winter exercising? Don’t know how to start? Talk to the personnel at our local sporting goods stores, such as Goldstream Sports, Beaver Sports, and REI. The combined knowledge of their staff members is impressive. If one salesperson doesn’t have an answer about a particular activity, they can find someone who can.
Another way to learn is to attend clinics put on by local outdoors stores. Most are free or come with a minimal fee. Checking Facebook pages is usually the best way to learn about those. For REI, check its events page: www.rei.com/events/p/us-ak-fairbanks
For skiing, the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks and Beaver Sports offer basic lessons (see more below). The University of Alaska Fairbanks sometimes offers skiing courses. Check the recreation class offerings (www.uaf.edu/coursefinder/).
That’s how you get started, but how do you keep going? Fortunately, Fairbanks offers a variety of group outings, lessons and races to keep you active throughout the winter.
The Fairbanks Area Hiking Club has a fan page on Facebook. The group holds organized outings, which it advertises on the page. People also use the page to organize informal hikes. The outings sometimes involve snowshoes, but often they are held on trails packed hard enough that snowshoes are not needed.
Almost anyone can run in winter and it doesn’t require a lot of equipment. You will need a good pair of running shoes, proper clothing and good lights if you plan to run at night.
Reflective gear is especially important if you run on roads. Running Club North has a great page on winter running: www.runningclubnorth.org/cold-weather-running/. Make sure to check out all the tabs.
Running Club North offers a couple of regular runs:
Fahrenheit Be Darned Runs leave from the UAF Patty Center on Wednesdays at 5:45 p.m.
HooDoo Beer Runs leave from the HooDoo Brewing Co. on Thursdays at 6 p.m.
The club also holds several races and fun runs throughout the winter. The races include the Snowshoe Series, composed of six snowshoe races on a variety of trails around Fairbanks.
Loaner snowshoes are available for those who want to try out this unique way of running. Check out all of Running Club North’s events on its calendar: www.runningclubnorth.org/
Cycling can be done the year round, though some specialized equipment is usually needed for winter. Fatbikes have boomed in popularity in recent years. They are the best way to cycle on packed snow trails. You don’t need a fatbike unless you’re heading out on the trails out of town, but you will probably need studs on your tires. Falling on ice is painful! The Fairbanks Cycle Club has a great page on winter cycling (www.fairbankscycleclub.org/resources/winter-riding/). Beaver Sports and Goldstream Sports also offer occasional demo rides. Watch their Facebook pages or on the FCC Facebook page.
Between the bike club and local bike shops, several weekly rides are offered.
FCC Winter Rides are low-key but usually long rides (often three to four hours) starting at noon every Sunday at Ivory Jack’s parking lot in the Goldstream Valley. They will start when there is enough snow. Watch the FCC Facebook page for announcements. Rides are canceled if the temperature is minus 25F or colder. All riders must be FCC members.
Goldstream Sports offers harder rides that demand a high level of fitness. Rides start at Goldstream Sports and have no temperature cut-off. Saturday rides start at 8 a.m. and Tuesday rides start at 7 p.m. They last about two hours. The store is hoping to offer intermediate level rides on Tuesday evenings, but nothing has been set yet.
Beaver Sports will be offering intermediate-level rides starting at the shop on Thursday evenings. The start time for winter hasn’t been set, but will probably be 5 or 5:30 p.m. The rides last about 60-90 minutes.
UAF Green Bikes will be offering periodic winter rides around campus. Check their Facebook page for announcements.
There’s nothing quite like gliding across the snow on your own power. Skiing requires a bit more skill than hiking, running or cycling, but Nordic skiers will tell you it’s worth it. Once you learn how to get your arms and legs working together in unison, it’s like an art form.
Fairbanks has a variety of lessons, races and group outings for skiing.
The Nordic Ski of Fairbanks offers a variety of classes for all levels. Junior Nordics are for children and adult lessons are for older skiers. The club also has a whole calendar of races and offers tours periodically throughout the winter. You’ll need to keep an eye on their website (www.nscfairbanks.org/) or Facebook page to keep up on all the offerings.
Beaver Sports offers free cross-country skiing lessons for those just learning or wanting to try out the sport. The monthly lessons start at 6:30 p.m. on Mondays. Check their Facebook events page.
Two groups have weekly low-key ski outings at Birch Hill Recreation Area. Ladies of Leisure (LOLs) meet at 6 p.m. on Mondays and 1 p.m. on Wednesdays. Each LOL session usually has several mini-groups that ski at various speeds, from a relaxed pace to a faster tempo, depending on ability levels and group desires. SCUM (Susan’s Class of Untrainable Men) meet at 11 a.m. on Sundays. SCUM are mainly men over 50 years old. Their levels of skill and endurance vary widely and they also break into smaller groups.
Eric Troyer is a local freelance writer who does all the activities listed above.