Conditions vary across times, trails

Posted: Friday, March 17, 2000

Bitter-cold temperatures, snow and competitive high school and middle school cross-country skiing are fast disappearing at this time of the year.

But that doesn't mean pleasurable skiing has to go along with it.

"For a lot of people, this is what they look forward to the most," said Dave Brann, vice president of the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club. "I always consider March one of the best months."

Spring draws many skiers because of its long, sunny days and warmer temperatures.

"It can be great skiing, but you have to be careful about being on the trails right now," said Penny McClain, chair of the Tsalteshi Trails Association.

This time of year, the trails and time of day which are picked for skiing become important.

Sunshine and above-freezing temperatures during the day soften up trails in the afternoon, but once the sun goes down and freezing temperatures hit ice can become a problem.

Also, without any recent snow, trails can be dirty or rutty in spots.

McClain said Tsalteshi Trails, located behind Skyview High School, was still holding up pretty good Monday night due to extensive grooming done there for last Saturday's races.

Tsalteshi offers 15 total kilometers of trail, with an outer loop measuring just under 7.5 kilometers. The trails are of all difficulties.

McClain added that spring can be a good time to do some jogging with smaller-sized snowshoes.

"We want to make sure people know snowshoes are more than welcome on the trails, just as long as they stay off the classical tracks," McClain said.

Across the Sterling Highway at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Brenda Wise, a refuge clerk, said the six-mile southern loop has been groomed, but no tracks have been set.

"The early morning snow is hard and fast, while the snow is wetter and stickier later on in the day," Wise said.

In Kenai, Bob Frates, the director of Kenai's Parks and Recreation Department, said groomers have not touched the Kenai Golf Course in over a week.

He does not anticipate grooming again, unless there is another snowfall.

"I can't recommend skiing on them," Frates said of the trails.

In Nikiski, groomer Dale Bakk said the place to ski is at the trails behind the Nikiski pool, and not at the Nikiski Commun-ity Trails.

The trails behind the pool are three kilometers of relatively flat skiing. Bakk said, since the trails are shaded and the temperature in Nikiski isn't getting much above freezing, the pool trails are pretty icy.

"If a group of skiers wants to contact me, I'll get out and groom it for them," Bakk said. "That will chew it up and make for some good spring skiing."

In Homer, Brann said Baycrest and McNeil Canyon Ski Trails are both in passable condition.

Baycrest, located 100 meters down Roger's Loop in Homer, has 25 kilometers of trail of all difficulties. McNeil Canyon, located 12 miles out East End Road, has 7.5 kilometers of trails that are of moderate difficulty.

Neither Baycrest nor McNeil has classic tracks.

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