Sunshine, clear blue skies and some freshly groomed snow delighted 16 skiers who participated in the Fuzzy Predator 10K ski race Sunday at Tsalteshi Trails.
Eagles perched in the trees above got a bird’s eye view of skiers traversing through course trails named wolf, bear, wolverine, goat and coyote. While goats may be fuzzy, they are not predators, so that trail section was renamed ‘chupacabra’ to stay within the demographic theme, said race organizer Mike Crawford.
Originally, the race route was set to include fox and lynx trails but because of ice and a lack of snow they were cut out and replaced with the goat trail to bring the course to 10 kilometers, he said.
“It is a daunting course with two big ridge climbs but people did great,” he said.
Kent Peterson, cross-country ski coach at Skyview High School, won the event in a brisk 30 minutes and nine seconds. John-Mark Pothast, a 14-year old eighth grader at Soldotna Middle School, came in second place, only one minute behind the winning time.
Lindsay Fagrelius was the first female to cross the finish line and sixth overall with a time of 37:21.
Three of the 16 participants used classic skis, while the majority of the field had skate skis. Jason Buckbee placed 11th with a time of 54:34, the fastest of the three classic skiers.
Peterson said skate skis are much faster than classic once you get the technique down. He said he enjoys going fast and is looking forward to competing in the Tour of Anchorage next week.
Crawford said while the trails host middle and high school cross-country ski races, there was a need for a community-wide ski event. He said it was a decent turnout considering the lack of snowfall this winter.
Tony Eskelin, who placed third, said he liked the diversity of the trail with steep hills and good downhills. He said the hills on bear trail were the most challenging.
“I have been complaining to co-workers that there is never any adult races in the area,” he said. “Today was perfect conditions and I had a blast.”
Mike Mohorcich, one of the Tsalteshi Trails board members, said Crawford has been worked hard to create more community races the last two years.
“Most of us like to race so for him to give up an event opportunity to manage, promote and put together takes a lot of effort,” he said.
The idea was to have a series of races each week in February leading up to the Tour of Anchorage on March 2, Crawford said. Dangerous icy conditions forced the postponement of the Ski for Women race from Feb. 2, which has been rescheduled for March 16 and two other events were canceled because of a lack of snow, he said.
Soldotna resident Sarah Jakits said skiing the trails brings her back to her days on the ski team at Skyview High School in 1992. Jakits placed 10th with a time of 43:52.
“I’m not fast, but it is fun to get out and move and enjoy the nice day,” she said. “The conditions were great considering the weather we’ve had.”
Tsalteshi Trails Maintenance Manager Bill Holt groomed the course for five hours the night before.
Pothast, 14, said Holt did a great job making the ski conditions fast. He said his long legs and stride give him an advantage for skiing. He crossed the finish line more than eight minutes before his father, John Pothast, who finished in eighth place.
Gavin Brennan, 11, said the race was hard with all the hills but he said the downhill parts made it worth it. Brennan participates in the youth ski program and yesterday he skied at the Kenai Golf Course. On Sunday the fatigue set in but he didn’t let that slow him down as he crossed the finish line.
“I was determined to finish,” he said. “I was tired but had fun.”
Reach Dan Balmer at firstname.lastname@example.org