As icy trails abate, subzero wind chills set upon area trails

New challenge awaits skiers

Posted: Friday, January 25, 2002

The poet Charles Bukowski wrote, "agony sometimes changes form but it never ceases for anybody." The same goes for worries when it comes to cross-country skiing.

For the last couple of weeks, the temperature on the Kenai Peninsula has fluctuated between freezing and thawing. That, along with rain and sleet, had conspired to make the central peninsula's ski trails icy.

This week, fresh snow fell on the peninsula and covered up that ice, but now forecasters are telling skiers they will have to deal with subzero wind chills for the weekend.

"If people are out, they're going to have to have the proper clothes on," said Nicole Johnson, a park ranger with the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. "They should be prepared for the cold and wind."

The ski trails at the refuge, which can be accessed at the refuge's headquarters in Soldotna, are looking good for the first time this month.

Johnson said the Nordic Lake Trails were going to be groomed Thursday. Those trails are 6 miles round trip and are classical skiing. The trails are on rolling terrain and have some difficult hills, but are heavily forested and should be sheltered from the wind.

Johnson also said the Overlook Routes are available for snowshoeing. She also mentioned that Saturday, from 10 a.m. to noon, will be a refuge fun day with many activities, including snowshoeing.

Across the Sterling Highway at Tsalteshi Trails, which are located at Skyview High School, the skiing also is looking up.

Bill Holt, the vice chair of the Tsalteshi Trails Association, said that Wednesday he used a roller to bond the new snow to the ice and it worked relatively well.

"We're certainly getting by now and we're real happy with what we've got," Holt said. "We're sort of hanging by a thread and could use some new snow, but we're patting ourselves on the back for what we do have."

Tsalteshi has about 11 kilometers available for skiing. Most of those kilometers should still have old classical tracks. The corners and the uphills will get more icy as the trails are skied more.

At the Kenai Nordic Trails, located on the Kenai Golf Course, Dave Feeken said the trails were set to be groomed today.

Feeken said there should be 7 kilometers ready for classical and skate skiing. The trails are mostly flat, with a few hills that may challenge beginners.

Probably the best skiing on the central peninsula is out in Nikiski. One week ago, most of the central peninsula received heavy rain. Out in Nikiski, that moisture fell as wet snow. That snow covered up the ice, and then this week's snow freshened up the trails.

"Every one of the kids who came back (Wednesday night) had a huge smile on their face," said Dale Bakk, the ski coach at Nikiski high school. "They were like, 'Whoa. That's nice.'

"I had to go and check it out for myself and they were right."

At the Nikiski Community Trails, there will be classical tracks set for a high school race Saturday. Those trails are 5 kilometers long and are of medium difficulty, with some pretty tough hills.

Bakk also was planning on grooming the trails behind the Nikiski pool Thursday. Those trails are 3 kilometers long, are mostly flat, and should be ready for classical and skate skiing.

The cold temperatures also have brought decent skiing to Seward, although Rich Houghton, the ski coach at the high school, was a bit concerned about the wind chill Thursday afternoon.

There are classical tracks set on the west side of Bear Lake, which is off Mile 7 of the Seward Highway.

The Mile 12 Ski Trails, located at Mile 12 of the Seward Highway, have 3 kilometers of easy to intermediate skating available.

Good skiing also is available to those in Homer willing to brave a little cold.

The McNeil Canyon Ski Trails, located 12 miles out East End Road, are still in good condition after hosting Besh Cup races last weekend. Those trails offer 7.5 kilometers of skiing. The short loops are suitable for beginners, while the long loop has some challenging up and downs.

The Baycrest Ski Trails, located off Roger's Loop Road in Homer, and Lookout Mountain, located on Ohlson Mountain Road in Homer, also should provide good skiing for the weekend.

Baycrest has skiing of all difficulties, while Lookout offers mostly flat skiing.

Upcoming ski events in Homer include the Wine and Cheese Tour, slated for Feb. 10, and the ski swap, which will be a half hour after the parade at the Homer Winter Carnival, which will take place on Feb. 9.

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