Fast times

Dense snow gives skiers a quick ride

Posted: Friday, February 23, 2001

Groomers of the Kenai Peninsula's cross-country ski trails have been battling a freeze-thaw pattern this week, but the trails still look fairly promising -- and fast -- for the weekend.

"After this warm spell, the trails got slick and icy," said Pam Ables, a computer specialist with the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. "With the warm sun shining on them, they are kind of slick, but they are not in bad condition."

The refuge trails, which can be accessed at the refuge's headquarters, offer 6 miles of classical skiing. Some of the trails have some fairly challenging hills and Ables advised caution on them.

Across the Sterling Highway at Tsalteshi Trails, groomers also were dealing with hard snow.

"We packed the snow down real good for the race (last weekend)," said Bill Holt, the vice president of the Tsalteshi Trails Association and one of the main groomers of the trails. "It warmed up early in the week and refroze into a big block of hard, consolidated snow.

"It takes a lot to soften that up."

Tsalteshi groomers started softening it up Thursday morning, grooming the 1.8-kilometer Moose Trail and the 3-kilometer Wolf Run. The results made for some fun skiing.

Holt said the main objective is to get the trails ready for middle school races, which will be held at Tsalteshi Friday and Saturday. He also hopes to groom some of the outer loops by this weekend, but as of Thursday those loops were still pretty icy.

Groomers of the Kenai Nordic Trails, located on the Kenai Golf Course, also were doing fairly well battling hard snow.

"Springtime is probably the most challenging part of the season for us," said Bob Frates, the director of the Kenai Parks and Recreation Department. "With the constant freezing and thawing, it gets to be tricky."

Frates said the 5-kilometer loop at the trails was groomed Tuesday. He also expects it to be groomed again for the weekend. Classical tracks should be set on the trails, which offer mostly flat skiing with some slight hills.

Out in Nikiski, Karen Kester, the recreation director for the North Peninsula Recreation Department, said both the trails behind the Nikiski pool and the Nikiski Community Trails were groomed in the middle of the week.

The trails behind the Nikiski pool, which are 3 kilometers long and mostly flat, are set up for classical and skate skiing.

The Nikiski Community Trails, which can be accessed from the parking lot of Nikiski Middle-Senior High School, are about 5.5 kilometers of hilly skiing. Kester did not know if classical tracks had been set there.

In Homer, 3 or 4 inches of snow over the past couple of days rescued the trails from the windblown debris that had blanketed them earlier in the week.

At the Baycrest Ski Trails, which now has a trailhead on the Sterling Highway at the Department of Transportation station just before Homer, 20 kilometers have been groomed for skating, with classical tracks set on 12 or 15 of those kilometers.

"The snow's holding up pretty good," said Dave Brann, the vice president of the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club. "People still have to be aware on some of the bridges because some of them are still pretty thin, but if you're aware, you should be fine."

The McNeil Canyon Ski Trails, located 12 miles out East End Road, have 7.5 kilometers groomed for skating. The trails are of all levels.

Brann also mentioned there will be some ski races at the Anchor Point Snow Rondi Saturday and Sunday. For a full schedule of events, call the Anchor Point Chamber of Commerce at 235-2600.

Finally, Dennis Perry, president of the Seward Nordic Ski Club, said skiers in Seward can find excellent skate skiing at the Mile 12 ski trails, located at Mile 12 of the Seward Highway. Those trails offer intermediate to advanced skiing.

Exit Glacier Road, located at Mile 5 of the Seward Highway, also is in fairly good condition. Those trails are flat and are 8 miles one way.

Also, Glacier Creek should be groomed by the weekend. These trails begin off Stony Creek Drive, which is located at Mile 6 of the Seward Highway. The trails are popular with touring skiers.

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