Nikiski ski trails best bet

Posted: Friday, March 22, 2002

Chances are Nikiski's Dale Bakk was mostly alone when he peeked out the window Sunday morning, saw Mother Nature had deposited an unseemly 2 feet of powder at his doorstep, and reacted with joy.

For most, winter is getting as old at this point as Alaska legislators talking about coming up with a long-term fiscal plan. But for Bakk, who grooms the trails in Nikiski, good skiing still beckons.

"I'm happy to see it," Bakk said of the Sunday snowfall. "It'll help us out for a couple of extra weeks here in the springtime.

"I was awfully surprised when I got up Sunday morning, but it was a good surprise."

Bakk spent about four hours Wednesday trying to get the trails packed at the Nikiski Community Trails, which can be accessed from the parking lot at Nikiski Middle-Senior High School.

He anticipated having 5 kilometers of skating ready at the school by today. The community trails are hilly and are for medium to advanced skiers.

Bakk was planning to get classical tracks in at the trails behind the Nikiski pool today. These trails are 3 kilometers long. They are mostly flat, except for a few hills that may challenge beginning skiers.

Most of the rest of the peninsula missed out on Sunday's huge snowstorm. Bakk said the storm traveled up the center of Cook Inlet and then unloaded a record 24-hour snowfall on Anchorage.

Nikiski got some of the snow because it noses out into inlet.

The rest of the peninsula is dealing with old snow that has been through many freeze-thaw cycles. This can be tough on groomers, because during freeze-thaw cycles a trail must be groomed every morning if it's going to be in great shape that day.

At Tsalteshi Trails, groomer Bill Holt said he is grooming as much as possible. Even if Holt doesn't get to the trails, Tsalteshi, located behind Skyview High School, still offers decent skiing at certain times of the day.

The key is hitting the trails after the sun has softened them up, but before the sun has made them mushy. Tsalteshi has 11 kilometers of trails that offer conditions suitable for skiers of all skill levels.

Across the Sterling Highway at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, conditions are pretty much the same.

Dave Kenagy, a ranger, said mornings are the best time for skiing, with the afternoons frequently very wet and mushy.

The Nordic Lake Trails, which are four loops with the longest being 6 miles, were groomed Thursday. They are in good condition. These trails are only suitable for classical skiing and have some hills that may challenge beginning or intermediate skiers.

The Overlook Routes, which are two loops with the longest being 2 miles, have not been groomed for a week. These trails are best for snowshoers.

The Kenai Nordic Trails, located at the Kenai Golf Course, also are being groomed regularly but may be best after the sun has softened them up a little. There are no classical tracks there, but there are 7 kilometers ready for skating.

Those trails are mostly flat, with some hills that may challenge beginning skiers.

Finally, springtime skiing also rules in Homer, which also has no fresh snow. At the Baycrest Ski Trails, which can be accessed from trail heads at Roger's Loop or the Department of Transportation Station, 30 kilometers are ready for skating. These trails are of all difficulties.

At the McNeil Canyon Ski Trails, located 12 miles out East End Road in the parking lot of McNeil Canyon Elementary School, 7.5 kilometers of skating await skiers of all levels.

Skiers are reminded the Sea-to-Ski Triathlon will be March 30 in Homer.

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