During an athletic career that spanned more than six decades, Dick Mize compiled an extensive resume that included a spot on the 1960 Olympic biathlon team. He was a member of two NCAA championship ski teams, won dozens of U.S. and world nordic masters championships and countless other overall and age-group running and skiing victories.
But that isn’t why Mize is a household name in Anchorage.
Mize is the man behind the city’s maze of ski trails, including the Mize Loop, one of the most popular trails at Kincaid Park.
Mize had a hand in creating 51 of the 61 kilometers of trail at Kincaid, a world-class network that makes Alaska an important part of the nation’s cross-country skiing world. Trails built by Mize have hosted national championships, Olympic trials, even World Cup races.
But when he first started blazing trails in 1961, Mize wasn’t thinking so big. He just wanted a place where the East High ski team could train and race.
“We didn’t have a trail system, but Russian Jack was close by and we simply used what is the parking lot now for our technique practice,” Mize said in a 2004 Anchorage Daily News interview. “We’d go around and around in circles and that was pretty much our afternoon technique practice.”
With Mize’s help, a rudimentary trail system began to take shape at Russian Jack. About five kilometers of trails were cut from East High to the park, where they competed for space with a prison farm, a detox center, potato fields and an animal shelter.
By 2015, Anchorage had more than 175 kilometers of ski trails that connect one end of the city to the other. Mize’s fingerprints are on many of them, at Kincaid, Russian Jack, Hillside and Girdwood.
“The main emphasis that a lot of people forget is that when we first started constructing trails, it was just to provide a place for the high school teams to practice and have their ski meets, and because of that, the trails have encompassed the entire community,” Mize said in 2004.
As a principal at three schools (Dimond, Mears, Wendler) and later as the activities director for the Anchorage School District, Mize fostered a climate that promoted sports participation and active lifestyles. And he has led by example – more than 55 years after he came to Anchorage in 1958 as a young soldier, Mize remains one of the most frequent users of the trails he built.
“It’s very gratifying for me to see others enjoying these trails for walking, running, skiing and mountain biking, and to know that I had a part in their development,’’ he said. — Beth Bragg