Groomers make best of slippery situations

Posted: Friday, February 13, 2004

Groomers across the Kenai Peninsula were battling icy conditions on the cross-country ski trails late in the week.

"I think, if the weather keeps going like this, I can scratch it up and it should be pretty good," said Bill Holt, the chair of the Tsalteshi Trails Association.

Holt was speaking of weather conditions of highs in the mid-30s, lows in the 20s and no precipitation.

The big wild card for the weekend is what form the expected precipitation will take. If snow falls Friday and Saturday, the trails should be in great shape. If a bunch of rain falls, all the work the groomers have done softening up the trails this week will be for naught.

Rain fell on the peninsula Tuesday, so Holt spent a lot of time Wednesday trying to get rid of icy conditions.

"The corners are actually skiing fine now," Holt said.

He groomed everything except for the Wolverine Loop, or the loop accessed from the trail head on Kalifornsky Beach Road. Holt was not sure when he would get to this loop. Until he does, it will be a tough experience for skiers.

The rest of Tsal-teshi is groomed for skating and classical skiing.

Holt also asked skiers' help in maintaining trail conditions when the temperatures go above 32 degrees and the trail gets really soft. If skiers are punching through the upper crust, they are asked to stay off the trail.

If skiers are not punching through the upper crust, it is fine to ski.

At the Kenai Nordic Trails, Bob Frates, the director of the Kenai Parks and Recreation Department, had to keep skiers off the course Wednesday. This was for safety reasons and to preserve the course.

Groomers have been hitting the course hard since Wednesday to prepare for high school and middle school races Saturday, which will tie up the trails from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"The skiing should be good heading into the weekend," Frates said, adding that groomers would not be able to set classical tracks until next week.

In Nikiski, Dale Bakk, the coach of the high school team, also kept people off the trails early in the week.

"We're holding our breath and hoping the temperature goes down and the trails set up and freeze flat without ruts," Bakk said.

Bakk was planning to take his team skiing on the trails Thursday.

For the weekend, he said there should be 5.5 kilometers of skiing at the Nikiski Community Trails and 3 kilometers at the trails located behind the Nikiski pool.

At the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge trails, Dave Kenagy, a park ranger, said the ski trails are in very good condition.

All loops on the Nordic Lake Routes were groomed Thursday. The Centennial Trail for snowshoers will be groomed Friday.

Kenagy also told those skiing on Headquarters Lake to watch out for overflow due to recent warm weather.

In Homer, Dave Brann, the vice president of the Kachemak Ski Club, said the storms earlier in the week caused icy conditions and numerous trees to blow down on the Baycrest Ski Trails.

Members of the association were working hard to get ready for the Wine and Cheese Tour Saturday.

To get to the tour's starting points, skiers should turn on to Dimond Ridge Road from the Sterling Highway and drive 1.8 miles.

The fee is $10 for club members and $15 for nonmembers. The self-guided tour will be about 7.5 kilometers long and takes skiers to two new houses, where wine, cheese and juice will be served.

Brann also said the skiing is good at the McNeil Canyon Ski Trails.

In Seward, ski coach Rich Houghton said the place to ski is at Seward Middle-Senior High School, where a 1.4-kilometer loop is being maintained.

Sunday at noon, there will be a freestyle race at the high school as part of the Seward Chamber of Commerce Ice Festival. Skiers interested in participating just need to show up shortly before noon.

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