Pass It On


Contributed by Debra McGhan

In the aftermath of recent earthquakes plaguing Southcentral Alaska, my thoughts turn back to 1964, when I was just nine years old and the largest earthquake to ever hit the US devastated Anchorage, where I lived. That quake registered 9.2 and lasted more than four minutes. We lost our home. We lost our way of life. But most importantly, we survived.

I learned much during that time, as well as over the next 50 years, about the importance of sharing life lessons; I call it ‘Passing it on.’ I don’t want other people to have to experience some of the preventable tragedies I’ve been through, so I have been working with the Mat-Su Borough Emergency Services for more than a decade, hosting Preparedness Expos, to help people deal with emergencies and disasters. I hope some of that effort has proven valuable and helpful for others, especially everyone who survived this most recent period of upheaval from the earthquakes.

Iron Dog Champions Chris Olds and Tyler Aklestad, competitors during the race, are unified while off the course, in their passion to ‘Pass it on’ by sharing their life lessons. Olds, who broke his back in 2013 while on a fun ride with friends, understands how being prepared and traveling with the right partners can make all the difference between life and death. This is a message he shares with his children, family, friends and all those interested in experiencing the best Alaska has to offer.

Aklestad has also faced life and death situations during his snowmobile adventures and agrees that being well prepared and riding with solid partners is one of the biggest keys for every successful ride.

Olds and Aklestad support the Alaska Avalanche Information Center by helping others who ride and recreate in the backcountry of Alaska, as well as attending and participating in special events.

Aklestad was the Keynote address at the 2018 Alaska Snow Safety Summit and featured speaker at the Snowfest, sharing tales of his race experiences and harrowing adventures. He encourages others to take the time to get educated and learn ways to stay safe in the backcountry of Alaska.


Olds was featured at the 2012 Snowfest, and has joined AAIC instructors during training courses over the years to share his life lessons, in an effort to help others.

The Alaska Avalanche Information Center Hatcher Pass, the Chugach National Forest Service, Alaska Avalanche School and a host of volunteers encourage everyone to take advantage of the many free avalanche and backcountry travel safety workshops offered across the state including right here in Hatcher Pass, designed to get you on the path to safe backcountry adventures.

Get the training; Learn to recognize the red flags nature provides to help you avoid trouble. Get the gear; Make sure you have the tools necessary and know how to use them, in the event you do run into trouble. Get the forecast; learn to check and understand snow and weather forecast so you’ll know what to expect. Get the picture; Learn to recognize dangerous terrain and conditions. And finally, get out of harm’s way; Learn to avoid getting caught in terrain traps by understanding where you should and should not be when recreating.

Don’t head out to ride without taking the time to get educated. Your family will thank you. Learn more, and see all the training opportunities available at