Thus far, the benefits of grooming central peninsula ski trails are still outweighing the costs, and that's good news for area cross-country enthusiasts.
"I plan on trying to keep it up as long as I can," said Bill Holt, a groomer at Tsalteshi Trails. "If it gets to the point where it's taking five hours to get it in shape, I'll have to stop.
"But now, it takes me only a few hours each day and it's in great shape."
The cold temperatures at night have been making it fairly easy for Holt to fluff up Tsalteshi, located behind Skyview High School. Holt said a lot of people are taking advantage of the later daylight and going skiing after work.
As of Thursday, all of Tsalteshi's 11 kilometers were providing good skating, although there is some debris on the trail.
Some of the trails also had classical tracks, although they were readily filling with debris. Due to the trouble they were causing, Holt wasn't sure how much longer the classical tracks would last.
Across the Sterling Highway at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, the skiing also is holding up nicely. Dave Kenagy, a ranger, said the Nordic Lake Trails, the Overlook Routes and Headquarters Lake were all groomed Thursday.
The Nordic Lake Trails have four loops, with the longest being 6 miles. The first two loops are in excellent condition. The last two loops are freshly groomed, but still may have some hard-packed snow or icy conditions.
These loops are for classical skiing and have some hills that may challenge beginning and intermediate skiers.
The Overlook Routes have two loops, with the longest being 2 miles. Kenagy said these loops are most suitable for snowshoers at this time.
Finally, Headquarters Lake offers skating, but also has some icy, crusty old snow.
Out in Nikiski, Dale Bakk is doing more raking than grooming due to all the debris on the ski trails.
Bakk spent five hours clearing debris at the Nikiski Community Trails Wednesday and was expecting to spend five more Thursday.
After that, he said the community trails, located at Nikiski Middle-Senior High School, should provide 5 kilometers of excellent skating. These trails are hilly and do have some areas that will challenge beginning and intermediate skiers.
Bakk also is hoping to have debris cleared off the trails behind the Nikiski pool by the weekend. These trails provide 3 kilometers of mostly flat classical skiing. There are a few hills there that may challenge beginners.
Skiers heading to the Kenai Nordic Trails, located on the Kenai Golf Course, also should find good skiing, although skiers should also be cautious of a few icy spots.
The trails, which are mostly flat except for a few hills that may challenge beginners, currently have 6 kilometers open for skating. Unless there is fresh snow, groomers at Kenai won't be able to put in classical tracks.
The ski trails also are continuing to get a lot of use in Homer.
"We've still got lots of snow," said Dave Brann, vice president of the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club. "We haven't had any new snow here, so it's getting hard-packed, but it isn't real icy yet."
The trails at Baycrest have 35 kilometers ready for skating and 20 kilometers with classical tracks. Baycrest offers skiing for all levels.
Baycrest can be accessed from either the Department of Transportation station just before Homer, or at the trail head on Roger's Loop. There also is a new snowshoe loop that can be accessed from the Roger's Loop trail head.
The McNeil Canyon Ski Trails, located 12 miles out East End Road at McNeil Canyon Elementary School, also are providing classical and skate skiing. The longest loop at these trails, which provide skiing for all levels, is 7.5 kilometers.
Brann also reminded skiers that the Sea to Ski Triathlon is coming up March 30.
Finally, Seward skiers also have plenty of options. The Mile 12 Ski Trails, located at Mile 12 of the Seward Highway, have 3 kilometers of intermediate trail ready for skating.
There also is flat skating on Exit Glacier Road, at Mile 5 of the Seward Highway, and Bear Lake, off Mile 7 of the Seward Highway.
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