Kenai Peninsula cross-country skiers should buckle their seat belts this weekend. They could be in for a fast ride.
Recent temperatures hovering at or above freezing have made for some extremely fast trail conditions.
"Early in the morning or late in the evening, after we've groomed the trails, they make for some fast skiing," said Bob Frates, the director of Kenai's Parks and Recreation Department. "During the day, once the sun hits the trails, they are getting real icy."
Due to the ice, Frates said skiers should be cautious. The trails are fast right now, but as many interesting divots both on and off the trails attest, they may be a little too fast.
One particular area that is always troublesome in these types of conditions are portions of hills where skiers do a lot of snowplowing. These areas can turn to ice quickly, especially on days of high traffic.
"People should be especially careful on the hills," Frates said.
According to Frates, the Kenai Golf Course, which is five kilometers of relatively flat skiing, has a five-kilometer loop groomed for skating. No classic track is set.
Frates suggested people call 283-3855 before going skiing for a report on trails at the course.
In other notes regarding the golf course, a ski group has started up at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. The group is for beginners and intermediates. It is free, and skiers should bring a head lamp if it is possible.
Call Dave Feeken at 283-5888 for more information.
In Nikiski, groomer Dale Bakk said, for now, the good skiing is at the trails behind the Nikiski Pool, which offer three kilometers of relatively easy skiing.
"It's perfect, family-type skiing," said Bakk, who has the trails groomed for both freestyle and classic skiing.
Bakk said the classic tracks are pretty hard, while consistent grooming is keeping ice on the skating portions under control.
At the Nikiski Community Trails, which are located behind the high school, Bakk said he is hoping to have three kilometers of skating and 5.5 kilometers of classic skiing ready in the next couple of days.
At Tsalteshi Trails, located behind Skyview High School, grooming done Thursday afternoon has the trails ready for Saturday's borough high school race.
"They groomed everything except for the red loop and the trails are in good shape," said Skyview High School ski coach Kent Peterson Thursday afternoon. "It still may be a little icy."
Penny McClain, the chair of the Tsalteshi Trail Association, said the trails are fast and advised skiers use caution.
Tsalteshi has an outer loop that measures just over seven kilometers, and has 15 total kilometers of trail. The trails are of all difficulties.
McClain reminded people that, during the winter, the trails are only to be used for skiing. She said there were tracks from a walker on the trail this week.
Also, McClain is continuing to run a masters ski group Monday night. Intermediate or advanced skiers meet at the hockey rink at 6:30 p.m. Skiers should be a member of the trail association, but they can sign up on Monday nights.
Across the Sterling Highway at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alicia Duzinski, fire program technician at the refuge, said about 15 kilometers of trails have been groomed for classic skiing.
In Homer, Dave Brann, the vice president of the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club, said skiing is fine if it is done at the right time.
"The best skiing is from noon to 4," Brann said. "It's kind of like spring skiing. The trails are in good shape, though."
Brann said all 30 kilometers of trails are groomed at Baycrest, which is located about 100 meters down Rodgers Loop in Homer. Classic tracks are set on 15 of those kilometers.
The grooming focus in Homer for the weekend will be at McNeil Canyon, located 12 miles out East End Road. McNeil recently had a new loop added, so it now has 13.5 kilometers available for skating.
Brann said fresh classic tracks will be set there for the weekend.
Sunday, the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club will hold its annual Wine and Cheese Tour at McNeil. Starting at noon, there will be an outdoor stop where skiers can sample wine and cheese. It is $5 for club members and $10 for nonmembers.
Brann also said that grooming at Lookout Mountain is still on hold.
Finally, Seward still has to dig its grooming equipment out after last week's major dump of snow.
Attempts to dig out the grooming equipment are expected to start Sunday.
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