Just as gold prospectors did in the early 1900s, central Kenai Peninsula cross-country skiers are turning north to find their fortune.
The trails behind the Nikiski pool and the Nikiski Community Trails are benefiting from a number of factors right now.
First, it is staying a little colder in Nikiski. Thursday afternoon, a thermometer showed the temperature at 41 degrees at Tsalteshi Trails behind Skyview High School. The temperature in Nikiski at that time was 36 degrees.
Second, Nikiski has accumulated a little more snow than Kenai and Soldotna this year.
Finally, the trails in Nikiski haven't been used as much. Tsalteshi Trails, the most popular trail system in the area, has had snow packed down repeatedly, so most of the trail system is now unskiable ice.
Dale Bakk, the coach at Nikiski high school, has been hard at work grooming the Nikiski trails this week because there will be a middle school race at the pool trails Saturday and a high school race at the Nikiski Community Trails Saturday.
Classical skiers will want to go to the trails behind the Nikiski pool. These trails offer 3 kilometers of mostly flat skiing.
Freestyle skiers will want to head to the Nikiski Community Trails, located at the high school. There are 5 kilometers of hilly, intermediate skiing here.
Tsalteshi Trails is still skiable, but groomer Bill Holt is concentrating on maintaining a short network of trails next to the school. These trails are mostly flat, and there is a classical track set.
Across the street at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Dave Kenagy, a ranger, called the trails "not really skiable." Kenagy said one option is snowshoeing.
The Kenai Nordic Trails, located at the Kenai Golf Course, are still closed down due to lack of snow.
In Seward, Rich Houghton, the high school ski coach, said freestyle skiing is available at the Mile 12 Ski Trails, located at Mile 12 of the Seward Highway. There is a 3-kilometer loop offering intermediate skiing.
In Homer, Dave Brann of the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club said there is still a good trail at McNeil Canyon Elementary School, which is 12 miles out East End Road.
There is a 4-mile trail out to Bald Mountain that has been holding up fairly well.
Brann also said there is a kilometer loop at the Rodgers Loop trail head at the Baycrest Ski Trails.
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