Skiers finding options limited

No place like Homer

Posted: Friday, January 19, 2001

More than ever, finding decent cross-country trail skiing on the Kenai Peninsula this weekend will require a good deal of hunting.

With trails on the central peninsula more suitable to ice skating than skiing, one of the best bets for skiers would be to head to Homer.

"It's been good skiing, but if the snow doesn't find you, you have to go find it," said Mike Flora, a member of the Kachemak Bay Nordic Ski Club.

"Just keep going farther out East End Road. It's there, just not at lower elevations. I haven't missed a day of skiing yet this season, you just have to look around a bit."

The trail in the best shape this weekend will likely be the McNeil Canyon Ski Trails, located at Mile 12 of Homer's East End Road. The trail head is in the parking lot of McNeil Canyon Elementary School.

"I had a great day there (Tuesday)," Flora said. "It's still like spring skiing. It's nice and based up."

Flora said McNeil has about 1.5 feet of snow depth. The conditions there are expected to improve since intensive grooming will be done for Besh Cup races that will be held at McNeil Saturday and Sunday.

Flora said the trails will be busy from 11 a.m. until about 2 p.m. both days, but other than that, the skiing should be great.

Classic tracks have yet to be set at McNeil, but there should be some available Sunday, since Sunday's Besh Cup will be a classic race.

Flora said there also is plenty of snow on Lookout Mountain, located on Ohlson Mountain Road, but he is not sure of the conditions of the trail.

"That was groomed as of a few days ago, but we pulled the equipment out of there a few days ago to concentrate on McNeil," he said. "It's skiable, but not groomed."

As for Baycrest, Flora said, for the most part, those trails are unskiable.

In Seward, buckets of rain this week have put a serious dent in the quality of trails.

"This is the winter that wasn't," said Dennis Perry, president of the Seward Nordic Ski Club. "It's ugly."

Perry said people have been gliding up and down Exit Glacier Road. The problem has been what's on their feet.

"Bring your ice skates," he said. "There have been people ice skating on Exit Glacier Road."

Perry said things aren't a lot better at the Mile 12 Ski Trails. Located at Mile 12 of the Seward Highway, the system has about 5 kilometers of skiing available.

"We're recommending that they wait until it cools off a little bit at Mile 12," Perry said. "The trail has plenty of snow. When the weather cools off about 5 degrees, it won't be quite so soft."

So what to do in Seward if you have a pair of skis this weekend that you're itching to use?

"We're thinking about putting on skis and using them to jump into the water this weekend," Perry said of the Polar Bear Jump, a Saturday event where people plunge into the icy waters of Resurrection Bay. "At least then we'll be able to say we were able to do something with skis on."

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