Couch potatoes

runIf the latest data out from Strava, the global activity tracking website, is to be believed, Alaskans need to pull themselves off the couch and get moving.

Either that, or they need to invest in more of that technology that tracks Americans running, cycling, hiking, skiing, walking and otherwise powering themselves across the continent because, at the moment, the residents of the 49th state look rather sloth-lke.

Strava data for 2017 ranks the 49th state 49th in running activity and an equal 49th in cycling.


Only three states appear more inactive, the two Dakotas and Wyoming. Strava, for unknown reasons, counts 52 states. One of the “states” is the territory of Puerto Rico, but it’s unclear as to what the other.

Maybe the mistake can be explained by Strava’s membership in “social media.”

The website has been described as the “Social Network for Athletes.”It allows people to upload GPS data from smart phones; Fitbits, Forerunners, Vivosmarts, Microsoft Bands, Apples or other watches; and just about every cycling computer to a website where a goodly number of competitive people compare their sports performances against others.

KOM – king of the mountain – challenges have cyclists in some parts of the country going a little crazy trying to best each others’ times from bottom to top.

“A new social-media app for cycling has more than a million riders racing, cheating, and even dying for virtual supremacy over the world’s roads and trails,” reported Outside Online in Strava’s early years.

Practical uses

But Strava isn’t reserved solely for online competitions. Dieters who walk, hike, bike, run, snowshoe or otherwise exert themselves can use Strava to count the extra calories burned in exercise, and there are other uses.

The Municipality of Anchorage earlier this year partnered with Strava to plot city travel routes most used by cyclists, walkers, runners and Nordic skiers. Yes, Strava tracks Nordic skiers but its annual report contained no Nordic skier summary.

The Strava “heat map”of Anchorage, which documents use with increasingly thicker and redder lines on a map, shows heavy traffic in both the Kincaid and Hillside parks – two areas popular with Nordic skiers.

Heavy use is also obvious on the main “bike trails” in the city’s green belt areas – Chester Creek, Campbell Creek and the Anchorage Coastal Trail corridor. And the Strava global, “winter-use” heatmap lights up just about every Nordic or downhill ski area in Alaska, and a few of which you might not know. 

It is unclear exactly how many Strava members there are in the state. The company doesn’t disclose that information. Globally, Mark Slavonia, a California investor interested in cycling, has estimated the company has about 8.2 million users.

Strava itself says more than 1 billion activities have been uploaded to its websites. Most of Europe is awash in Strava track lines. Much of California is similarly lit up, and there are concentrated areas of activity around Portland, Seattle and Vancouver.

From Vancouver north, however, the map goes largely black with flashes of activity appearing only in or near established communities and in a few strange outposts. Ketchikan, Sitka and Juneau – the biggest city’s in Southeast Alaska – light up as busy, along with isolated Lemesurier Island in Cross Sound at the north end of the Alaska Panhandle.

From there into the bulk of Alaska, activity primarily shows around communities and the Alaska road system, but a few remote areas light up as well – the West Buttress route up Mount Denali, the Resurrection Pass Trail on the Kenai Peninsula, the Iditarod Trail from Wasilla north to McGrath, the road system around the village of St. Mary’s on the Yukon River, the Cape Romanzof Long Range Radar Site in far Western Alaska, Unalakleet on the Bering Sea Coast and the Iditarod Trail back across the Kaltag portage to the Yukon Village of the same name, the cross-country ski course around the village of White Mountain, the roads and trails that spiderweb the Seward Peninsula out of Nome, Kotzebue, Barrow, the airstrips at Alpine and Kuparuk in the Alaska oil fields where some people have obviously been running laps, and Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope.

The heatmap paints an interesting picture of where people are on the move in Alaska even if they aren’t moving a lot.






4 replies »

  1. The strava “rankings” look more reflective of the state population, not a measure of per capita activity level. No way are the hot weather southern states of Texas and Florida so relatively active, they just have large population thus there are a lot of outings happening.

  2. Strava can be irritating. It’s a good way to keep track of the miles on a bike. But when some 20 something clown starts following you and gives you a hard time about beating you on some climb….hey, I was carrying a big EOS and looking for moosies to photograph. And I’m 69 years old kid! The technology is amazing but unfortunately as a wise old long in the tooth elder I’m not so interested in what it can tell me. Now where was Strava when I was 15 years old?

Leave a Reply