Sartorial tips from the Last Frontier, epicenter for the power- recreationalist

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, September 1997

The Natives Are Restless (But Smartly Dressed)

Sartorial tips from the Last Frontier, epicenter for the power- recreationalist

Clint McCool

Whitewater guide, high school economics and philosophy teacher. Photographed at Chilkoot Charlie's Rustic Saloon, Anchorage.

Ten years of tumbling down rapids will teach you things, among them how best to explore the wilderness. "It's difficult to see Alaska on foot," McCool says. "So rafting is really the best way to see how fantastic it is." Spoken like an owner of a rafting company. Still, McCool would likely slap down some praisology even if he weren't economically wedded to rivers or even to the Alaskan outback, about which he can philosophize mightily. "When you live up here you have to know how to do everything, from how to handle animals to how to deal with insects," says McCool. "We're so far removed, it requires a very resourceful attitude." Ribbed cotton zip-neck sweater, $135, white
cotton T-shirt, $25, synthetic suede pants, $145, and black rubber lace-up boots, $195, all Polo Sport by Ralph Lauren; watch, $85, by Gul.

Erika Bernhardt

Bush pilot, ski and snowboard instructor. Shown at Rust's Flying Service Dock, Lake Hood, Anchorage.

As reigning title holder of the Talkeetna Wilderness Woman contest, Bernhardt carries a burden: She's expected to be competent in all manner of Alaskania, from hauling water to chopping wood (two of the competition's events). Luckily, Bernhardt's experience includes stints at seemingly every skill-building enterprise imaginable, and then some. She climbs ice and rock; has toiled away at a fishing camp, at a hunting camp, and on the Alaska Railroad; can rebuild a car; pilots her own plane; was Miss Teenage Alaska. Of course, the Talkeetna contest isn't entirely about competence. "The local bachelors started it so they could get a look at the local women," she says. As two-time champ, Bernhardt observes, "My job is to beat them back with a club." Ribbed cotton turtleneck, $68, by Polo Jeans Co. Ralph Lauren.

Jacqueline Butt

Commercial fisherman, physical therapist. Aboard the Hilda, Seward Port.

"It seems like the fishing should be idyllic," Butt says of the summer work on salmon boats. "But it's intensely competitive. And people play dirty." Cram 600 boats into a small section of Alaska's Bristol Bay, churn in some intoxicatingly desirable salmon, add a blink-and-it's-over season, and some ugliness is sure to erupt. "Boats ram each other; people beat each other up, cut their nets," Butt says. "A couple of people usually die each year." But the evenings on the ocean are lovely, especially when, as Butt does, you bunk down on deck (less for the view, admittedly, than for some privacy from the all-male crew snoring away in "Man Camp"). And then there's the joy when the run is finally over. "You just pick up your fish, turn the hoses on, and rinse everything away," she says. "I just drop my clothes and leave them behind." Green slicker, $67, by Helly-Hansen; Merino Puffer Ribchunky turtleneck, $225, CK by Calvin Klein; tab front low rise khakis, $48, by CK Jeans; Saranac boots, $65, by Sorel. Also shown, left to right: Stove 2 In One polyfill jacket, $195, by Tommy Hilfiger. Orange PVC parka with zip-out vest, $278, by Fila Sport. Down-filled, fleece-lined waxed jacket, $450, by Greg Norman.

Steve House

Mountain guide. Shown at Base Camp, Mount McKinley.

Plumping up a climbing rësumë as robust as Steve House's is not a simple matter. Consider the current entries: McKinley, Mont Blanc, the Eiger, the Matterhorn; various peaks in South America and Asia; practically all of North America and definitely all of the Pacific Northwest. So he has to get creative. After a recent summitting of McKinley (his sixth) as a guide with the American Alpine Institute, House made constructive use of his off-the-clock time: tackling an unclimbed route by way of a 3,000-foot-high pinnacle. "It took us 30 hours to do it," he says. "But we got it — one shot." We're already marking up the vitae. Power Stretch zip-neck top, $125, and tights, $95, both Nautica Competition EPG by David Chu; Pursuit waterproof boots with neoprene socks, $170, by Sorel.

Nina Kemppel

Olympic skier, rescue worker. Atop Mount Alyeska Ski Resort.

Kemppel's hoping for medal success in Nagano this winter — having been the top American in nordic combined at the last Winter Games — so the exhausting work of her seasonal day job, helping the Park Service pluck people off Mount McKinley, serves her pretty well. Not well enough to skip the regular three-and-a-half-hour-long training gruels to Alyeska's summit, of course, but at least on these excursions she has company: Anouk, her Siberian husky. Good thing, too; a moose once rushed Kemppel during her run, pinning her with a platter-size hoof while it readied a final stomp. "Anouk charged her, barking like crazy, and chased her off. I wouldn't be alive without her." Training jacket, $80, Dri-F.I.T. tights, $48, and Air-Humara trail running shoes, $95, all by Nike; Ray-t-ator T-shirt, $38, by Sierra Designs; corduroy cap, $15, by Gap.

DeeDee Jonrowe

Sled dog racer, sportfishing guide. Outside her home in Willow.

Scattered across Jonrowe's 15 acres of wooded land are 86 Alaskan huskies — her transportation — all of which she can call by name. "I pick a theme for each litter. Indian tribes, Santa's reindeer, Bible characters, you name it." Seventeen years of mushing and a second-place finish in the '93 Iditarod will yield some doggie tricks, and Jonrowe has a bushel of them. Like what to feed them. ("Bee pollen and hamburger meat.") And how to spot rivalries. ("It's in the way they hold their ears. After a while, you get a sense who doesn't like to eat their dinner next to whom.") Such preferences extend indoors, as well: Jonrowe's four Labs dine in the kitchen with their owner; the huskies make do alfresco. EBTEK Polartek jacket, $98, turtleneck, $18, and stretch pique
pants, $48, all by Eddie Bauer.

Marc Vance

Actor, stunt man. Aboard the Mount Alyeska Tram.

People don't usually jump from the Alyeska tram, but when MTV came calling last year the resort agreed to let the cast of Road Rules II take a dive. It also chose the surest hand around to lead — and in one case, coax — them: Vance. Good pick, since Vance knows his way around camera; he's logged hours as a director, stunt man, and actor for commercials and films (his oeuvre includes the sublime Hot Dog...The Movie). Even though he got the balky MTV kids into the air and then back safely, the resort doesn't plan to make bungee jumping a regular thrill ride anytime soon. Which means Vance has to sneak his leaps in wherever he can — usually under the guise of his adventure "club." "If you don't laugh and life isn't fun for you," he says, "then don't join." Power Stretch Titan top, $84, by Sequel; sweatsuit, $135, by Nautica; Air-Nezium shoes, $80, by Nike; glasses, $79, X-Ray by Ray-Ban.

Warren Rowe, Michael Day, and Josh Marks

Snowboarders and, respectively, forestry worker, construction worker, and hotel caterer. Shown at Mount Alyeska Ski Resort.

"Everything in Alaska is a couple years behind," says Rowe, noting that the official nod toward snowboarding at Alyeska is just now coming and that the lack of said nod till now has required them to hump together their own berms for proper air-styling. What turned the tide were the wow-'em boarders at last winter's World Extreme Championship trials held at Alyeska. The trio passed on a shot at the cup ("People here are self-reliant," Rowe says. "They don't need a title to tell them they're good") but took in the action anyway. Then, properly charged, they headed into the Valdez backcountry for some true challenges. "Back there you realize how small you really are," says Day. "It's definitely extreme." On Warren: green down jacket, $195, Nautica by David Chu; acrylic-wool V-neck sweater, $28, by Old Navy; cargo pants, $148, CK by Calvin Klein. On Michael: Hadley cable sweater, $350, and ribbed cotton turtleneck, $175, both by Tommy Hilfiger; relaxed khakis, $46, by Dockers Khakis. On Josh: nylon quilted vest, $165, cable-knit turtleneck, $175, flat-front pants, $73, all by DKNY.

Jennifer and Merrick Johnston

Mountain climbers, guides. Camping in Chugach State Park, Anchorage.

When Jennifer Johnston tells her 14-year-old daughter, Merrick, to go play outside, she goes through the usual motherly checklist: Got your mittens? Insulated bibs? Ice-ax, crampons, climbing rope? "I used to try to get her to watch TV," says an exasperated Jennifer. "But she won't sit still." She never has; Merrick is so fidgety that Jennifer agreed to join her in climbing McKinley in 1995 — mostly to keep her quiet — making Merrick the youngest person to summit the peak. Daughter has tackled many big peaks with mom but hasn't yet cracked the mighty Himalayas. It's a pricey excursion for a 14-year-old, especially when you earn your expedition funds in that time-tested teenager way: by baby-sitting. Nut Shell Jacket, $110, by Mountain Hardwear; Titan Power Stretch bibs, $140, by Sequel; Air-Terminus Zoom shoes, $95, by Nike. Powerfill down vest, $90, Retroflex stretch fleece zip-T, $79, and Retroflex stretch fleece tights, $79, all by Sierra Designs; Leadville Racer shoes, $110, by Rockport. Tiros Assault CD tent, $375, by Sierra Designs.

Paul Roderick

Commercial pilot. At the Talkeetna Air Taxi office.

Ask Roderick what he has in common with a New York hack and he quickly responds, "We get all walks of life up here." Sure enough. Since he took over the 50-year-old Talkeetna Air Taxi service two years ago, Roderick has shuttled everyone from geologists to world-class mountaineers on the 30-minute flight to Mount McKinley. And at what are the passengers most surprised? The way Roderick scopes out those landing spots on the tricky, flat-light glacier. "You scatter evergreen boughs out the window just before you land," the native northeasterner says, "and suddenly, you have depth perception." Frigid Urban jacket, $395, ribbed turtleneck, $68, and Easy-Fit khaki jeans, $56, all CK by Calvin Klein; Air-Kolob boots, $95, by Nike.

Marten Martensen, Kjerstin Lastufka

Mountain runners. Trailside on Mount Marathon, Seward.

The Mount Marathon doesn't seem daunting on paper: only 3.5 measly miles. But as Lastufka, this year's runner-up, points out, "There's a gain and drop of more than 6,000 feet in 3.5 miles." Lastufka was chatted into running the gut-buster by her childhood buddy Martensen, who first tackled the mountain's shale cliffs and treacherous scree when he was 12 years old and presumably knew no better. He's since bagged the title three times. "It's more grueling than a regular marathon," says Lastufka. "The trick to winning is to control your fall on the way down. Because that's all you're doing — falling." The champ's winning tip? Scree-proof armor: duct tape from arch to ankle. On Kjerstin: Twilight ICR Hyperactive vest, $120, by The North Face; Thermastat T-shirt, $38, by Duofold; tights, $48, by Adidas; Ironman Triathlete watch, $55, by Timex; Leadville Racer trail shoes, $110, by Rockport. On Marten: Ninja Hoody jacket, $155, by Lowe Alpine; CoolMax T-shirt, $26, by Duofold; nylon/Spandex pants with reflective piping, $155, by DKNY; Daddy-O trail shoes, $90, by Rockport. For more information turn to page 132.

Jay Poss

Biathlete, wilderness guide, high school cross-country coach. Photographed at New
Sagaya's City Market, Anchorage.

Learn to live quickly. That's the key. Three hours for training, cram them in. Knock off the mentoring thing in summertime, filling 45 little heads during natural science camp. Fly somewhere warm for some scuba diving, then hustle back north for rock climbing, with a little paragliding thrown in. Have to prep for Nagano in 1998, too, so dive into some local competition, like the Mount Marathon, placing high seven straight years, but maybe not high enough. ("I can do it under 50 minutes. I know.") Speed somewhere else, do something else, do something more. Or just speed. Pulled over five times in the last few years. Father's a retired cop, good thing. "I don't have to pay for a lot of tickets." Arther Rib thick T-neck sweater, $112, by GUESS?; silverTab cords, $54, by Levi Strauss & Company; classic wallabee suede shoes, $195, by DKNY.

Where To Find It
Adidas 800-367-2343; Calvin Klein 212-719-2600; DKNY 800-231-0884; Dockers 800-872-5384; Duofold 610-398-3476; Eddie Bauer 800-426-8020 Fila Sport, Fila Boutiques nationwide, or call 800-787-3452; Gap, Gap stores nationwide; Greg Norman 888-667-6264; GUESS?, GUESS? retail stores nationwide, or call 800-394-8377; Gul Brookstone stores nationwide, or call 415-806-4831; Helly-Hansen 800-435-5901; Levi Strauss & Co. 800-872-5384; Lowe Alpine 303-465-3706; Mountain Hardwear 800-330-6800; Nautica, The Nautica Store, New York, and Bloomingdale's stores nationwide, or call 212-541-5757; Nike 800-344-6453; Old Navy 800-653-6289; Polo Jeans Co. Ralph Lauren, Burdines, Rich's, and Lord & Taylor stores nationwide, or call 888-276-7656; Polo Sport by Ralph Lauren Polo, Sport store, New York, and select Macy's and Bloomingdale's stores nationwide; Ray-Ban 800-472-9226; Rockport 800-762-5767; Sequel 970-385-4660; Sierra Designs 800-635-0461; Sorel 800-667-6735; The North Face 800-719-6678, ext.155; Timex 800-367-8463; Tommy Hilfiger at select Bloomingdale's, Burdines, and Macy's stores nationwide

Text by Lolly Merrell. Research by Michael Kessler, Stephanie Gregory, Claire Martin, Laura Slavik, and Lorien Warner.

Fashion by Vicky McGarry

Photographs by Daniela Stallingerk

Filed To: Snow Sports

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