Freeze-thaw pattern hard on ski trails

Posted: Friday, March 10, 2000

A reliable rule for finding in-shape ski trails will be as valuable this weekend as any: Go where the races are.

This week's temperatures have been tailor-made for cementing the peninsula's ski trails with ice. In order to provide excellent skiing, hours of diligent scraping must be put in by groomers.

And the groomers with the most incentive to do that scraping are those who have races coming up Saturday, like the ones at Tsalteshi Trails at Skyview High School, Homer's Baycrest trails and Seward's Exit Glacier Road.

"Just tell them that I'm optimistic," said Bill Holt before heading out to battle icy conditions at Tsalteshi Trails Thursday morning.

Before Holt did the trails, many portions were so icy that it was tough to get an edge while skating. However, with fellow groomer Alan Boraas set to join Holt Thursday afternoon, Penny McClain, chair of the Tsalteshi Trail Association, said the trails should be fine by Saturday.

"With two of them out there, we should have a pretty good race course," McClain said.

The first races at the Ski for Habitat, which is being put on by Habitat for Humanity, the Tsalteshi Trail Association and Mactel Cellular Systems, will start at 11 a.m. Saturday. Skiers can register until 10 a.m.

Dave Brann, vice president of the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club, also said Baycrest should be in good shape for Saturday's Kachemak Bay Ski Marathon.

"By race day, there should be an inch of crumbly type snow on top of hard pack," Brann said of Baycrest.

He said Baycrest, located about 100 meters down Roger's Loop, will have close to 40 kilometers of skating and classical skiing by race day. The trails are of all difficulties.

Brann said there is no skiing at Lookout Mountain, and he said the McNeil Canyon Ski Trails, located 12 miles out East End Road, had 7.5 kilometers of skate skiing.

Rich Houghton, the coach of Seward's high school ski team, said Exit Glacier Road should be in good shape for Saturday's Seward Nordic Ski Classic.

"You have to work at it," Houghton said of the trails. "You have to keep chewing it up, because it keeps freezing at night."

The Seward event will feature six- and 12-kilometer races in both skate and classic styles, as well as a six-kilometer skijor race. Participants may register between 9 and 10 a.m. the day of the race at the race site.

Elsewhere, the picture is not so rosy. Bob Frates, the director of Kenai's Parks and Recreation Department, recommended staying off the Kenai Golf Course due to icy conditions.

In Nikiski, groomer Dale Bakk said the conditions were skiable, but recommended using caution due to icy trails.

The trails behind the Nikiski pool offer three kilometers of flat skate skiing. The Nikiski Community Trails, located behind the high school, have about five kilometers set for skating.

At the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Sandy Groth, a budget technician at the refuge, said there are five miles of trails ready for classical skiing. They may be icy in spots.

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