Snowboarders find great summer snow on Kodiak

Posted: Friday, June 02, 2000

KODIAK (AP) -- Two elite European athletes could not resist a stop in Kodiak during their snowboarding tour of the Pacific Ring of Fire, hitting Pyramid Mountain right after getting off the ferry at 5 p.m. on May 21.

They sat down to their first dinner in Kodiak at 1 a.m.

''The sun's out so long. We've never been snowboarding so late. The last two nights we came down (from Pyramid Mountain) at 11 or 11:30 p.m.,'' Carolin Schad said.

Schad and partner Olli Mueller search out good snow and steeps, but also beauty and solitude.

''We really wanted to go to a place where nobody has come so far. I know the people here do it (backcountry snowboard), but I've never heard of people going to Kodiak to snowboard,'' Mueller said. ''I can't understand why so few people do it here. They have really excellent skiing here.''

The Kodiak trip is an offshoot in their search for the next chapter in a photojournalist saga that the pair have named ''Snowboarding the Pacific Ring of Fire''.

For eight months last year, Schad and Mueller snowboarded volcanoes around the Pacific: Hawaii's Mauna Kea; New Zealand's Ngaruhoe, Ruapheu, Tongariro and Taranaki; Canada's Garibaldi; plus Baker, St. Helens, Hood and Rainier in the United States.

The couple from Munich, Germany, have been traveling and writing together since they met about four years ago in a ski lodge on Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany.

Their Kodiak snowboarding adventure is part of a 21-day tour of the island accompanied by outdoor photographer John Speer of Washington state and Kodiak residents Steve and Sharon Wielebski.

They were looking into Alaska and its string of volcanic mountains when Speer recalled 10 seconds of mountain footage from a Kodiak bear documentary.

The team started investigating Kodiak, and soon Wielebski's name came up.

''We really enjoy getting other people involved,'' said Wielebski. ''This is the usually the best time of year to snowboard and ski because the snow is so good.''

The German couple raved about the terrain and views. ''We really like the combination of mountains and ocean,'' Schad said.

They haven't seen any bears, but Speer did photograph Mueller carving turns across a line of bear tracks.

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