Good skiing opportunities fading

Warmer weather contributing to decline of some peninsula trails

Posted: Friday, March 09, 2001

One of the positive offshoots of all the school cross-country ski programs that are popping up on the Kenai Peninsula is that more maintained trails tend to pop up with those programs.

An example of that are the trails at Tustumena Elementary, located at Mile 110 of the Sterling Highway.

There are about 2.5 kilometers of trails at the elementary school. Dave Michael, a fourth-grade teacher at Tustumena Elementary and head of the ski program there, said 30 to 35 kids come out twice a week to learn to ski.

"I think it's a very healthy thing for people to learn at an early age," said Michael, who skied in the 1980 Olympics. "It lets them get out in winter instead of staying inside and fighting it.

"We just have fun with it. Of course, my first love with skiing is competition, but that's not for everybody, and I don't think it has to be. It's great when young kids just love getting out."

The flip side is the trails at Tustumena, which are all flat, except for a gradual downhill, also are a great place for adults in the Kasilof area to get out. Michael said it's an ideal place for those who don't like some of the hills of, or the drive to, Tsalteshi Trails.

This week is the last week of skiing for the elementary school program, which normally starts in mid-January.

The trails are maintained with help from both the Tsalteshi Trails Association and the Caribou Hills Cabin Hoppers. Michael said the conditions are deteriorating with the warm temperatures but that the trails should hold as long as they don't get rain.

Elsewhere on the peninsula, groomers also said trails are holding up relatively well despite the warm and sunny pre-spring days.

n Kenai Nordic Trails -- Bob Frates, the director of the Kenai Parks and Recreation Department, said the trails have been soft during the day and icy at night.

He said the trails, located at the Kenai Golf Course, are getting thin on the west side. There's still 5 kilometers of mostly flat skiing available, but Frates said that could soon be cut down to 3 kilometers.

n Tsalteshi Trails -- The trails, located behind Skyview High School, have about 5 kilometers ready for skiing.

Al Trumpler, a member of the volunteer grooming crew there, said the trails are typical spring skiing -- soft during the day and hard at night. The trails have skiing for all levels and do not have classical tracks set.

n Kenai National Wildlife Refuge trails -- These trails, which can be accessed from refuge headquarters on Ski Hill Road in Soldotna, still have 6 miles set for classical skiing. The trails are narrow and have some challenging hills.

Pam Ables, a computer specialist at the refuge, said the trails are in good condition but also are a little on the slick side. She said there were a lot of people out enjoying them last weekend.

n Trails behind the Nikiski pool -- Dale Bakk, who grooms these trails, said they are in fantastic shape due to the fact they are mostly shaded from the sun.

"So far, the warm days haven't hurt us too bad," Bakk said. "But if it stays like this, the snow will go pretty fast. The ski season will be over before we know it."

The pool trails have 3 kilometers of mostly flat trail that are currently set up for classical skiing. Skaters there should take care not to crunch the classical tracks.

n Nikiski Community Trails -- These trails, located in the parking lot of Nikiski Middle-Senior High School, also are shaded and holding up nicely.

Bakk said 5 kilometers are available for skating. Hills make these trails moderately difficult.

n Baycrest Ski Trails -- These trails received at least 4 inches of snow this week, so Dave Brann, vice president of the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club, said they should be in excellent shape for the weekend.

The trails can be accessed from the parking lot of the Department of Transportation station outside of Homer, at Mile 169 of the Sterling Highway.

Saturday, the Kachemak Marathon Ski will be held at Baycrest, with distances of 2 kilometers, 10 kilometers and 30 kilometers. For information on the race, call Kenton Bloom at 235-6600, check the Internet at or check out the latest issue of The Alaska Nordic Skier.

Brann also reminded people that the annual Sea-to-Ski Triathlon is coming up on April 1.

n McNeil Canyon Ski Trails -- These trails, located 12 miles out East End Road, have 7.5 miles available for skating. There is skiing there for all levels.

n Mile 12 Ski Trails -- The trails, located at Mile 12 of the Seward Highway, have plenty of snow and 3 kilometers available for skating. The skiing here is intermediate to advanced.

n Exit Glacier Road -- The trails, located at about Mile 5 of the Seward Highway, also have good snow. The trails are relatively flat and gradually slope as they follow the Resurrection River.

Exit Glacier Road will host the second annual Seward Nordic Ski Classic on March 10. The race offers distances of 6 and 12 kilometers and a 20-kilometer skijor race. For more information, call 224-5559 or 224-8051.

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