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Kicking -- the habit

New mode of winter transportation pops up in area

Posted: Friday, January 25, 2002

After a six-year wait, Peggy Arness finally found a way to start getting her kicks just before Christmas this year.

Six years ago, Arness was traveling in Norway when she became enamored of kicksleds. A kicksled is a pair of runners joined by handlebars on which riders propel themselves with a kicking motion similar to that of a skateboarder.

"Everybody has them in Norway," Arness said. "I mentioned to my husband, Jim, that I wanted one, but we were traveling and we couldn't figure out a way to get one back here."

Six years later, Arness was at the post office when a conversation with Teresa Quade, a postal worker, turned to Norway.

Unbeknownst to Arness, Teresa's husband, Paul Quade, had caught the kicksledding bug before the winter of 2000-01. The Quades were in the midst of starting a business, called Alaska Sparken, that would import kicksleds to the Kenai Peninsula.

"I immediately told Jim about it," Arness said. "I just had to have one."

Arness got what she calls her "Finnish Cadillac" for Christmas and has been enjoying it ever since. The pleasure Arness, and the few other peninsula residents, have been getting from their kicksleds is something the Quades hope portends a fad.

The Quades actually weren't planning on starting their business until next year, but positive reactions to the kicksled at both Christmas Comes to Kenai and the sports swap at Kenai Central High School encouraged them to move up their plans.

Despite the hassles of international shipping, the Quades are planning on importing 48 more kick vehicles this winter and another 450 to 600 next year. As of now, there are only a handful of kick vehicles, which can be anything from kicksleds for children to kicksleds for ice fishing to kick vehicles with wheels, in the area.

"It's been snowballing on itself," Teresa Quade said.

Postal worker Forrest Nelson always dreaded winter before getting her kicksled this Christmas.

"I've been up here for 28 years, and for the first time, I actually find myself wishing for snow," Nelson said. "It used to mean crawling over snow banks to get to mailboxes, but now it means I can use my kicksled."

Those who have tried kicksleds also appreciate the aerobic workout a trip on the apparatus yields.

"You'd be surprised. You work up quite a sweat," Paul Quade said. "It'd be good cross-training for athletes.

"The fun part of it is you can enjoy the scenery while getting fit."

Things like enjoyment of winter and fitness are often mentioned by cross-country skiers as reasons for participating in their sport.

But kicksledders have several more reasons why their mode of transportation is a good addition to, or replacement for, cross-country skiing.

For starters, kicksleds, which cost from $200 to $250 depending on accessories, work fine on icy trail conditions, particularly if riders have spikes on their shoes to keep from slipping.

For the first half of last winter, skiers were frustrated by icy trail conditions. Kicksledders had no such problem.

"The ice never forced us to miss a day last year," Teresa Quade said.

Kicksledding also can be more convenient than skiing. If kickers live on a street with any kind of ice or snow cover, they can just grab their sled and go.

"The one thing that can stop us is the sand truck," Paul Quade said. "I always cringe when I see it coming.

"I never thought I'd be sad to see them sand my road."

Kicksledding also is a lot easier to learn than cross-country skiing. Mary Rhyner said her husband and daughters have always skied, but she never felt comfortable with all the falls she had to take to learn skiing.

"I'd try and go skiing with my family, but I'd end up falling a lot and wouldn't have as much fun," Rhyner said. "(Kicksledding) is easy, and it allows me to get out with my family when they go skiing."

Rhyner also said the exercise does wonders for her back. Unlike sports such as biking, the motion of kicksledding dictates that the rider hold no fixed position, so if a muscle area is getting sore, the rider can adjust by changing form a little.

All these factors conglomerate to mean that kicksledding works for those of all ages. Arness is a proud 76 years old, and she rides hers twice a day.

"I'd be outside no matter what, even if it meant walking on ice by using ski poles," Arness said. "I've just found this is a pleasant way to enjoy the outdoors."

Those wishing to learn more about kicksleds can check out the Alaska Sparken's Web site at www.alaskasparken.com.

Alaska Sparken also will be putting on kicksled races as part of the Kenai Peninsula Winter Games. The races are for people age 5 and up and will be at the Soldotna Sports Center Feb. 2 at 2 p.m. For more information, contact Alaska Sparken at 283-5423.



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