Lots of snow, few people make Caribou Hills, Turnagain Pass great for spring riding

Spring snowmachining options abound

Posted: Friday, April 13, 2001

For many people, the warmer weather and the melting ice doesn't necessarily mean that summer is right around the corner. For them their favorite season of winter is ending.

For those frosty weather enthusiasts that look outside and see nothing but puddles and mud the answer to their woes is right around the corner -- or, right up in the hills.

"Up in the Caribou Hills there is still 3-plus feet of snow," said Howard Davis, the treasurer of the Caribou Hills Cabin Hoppers Snowmachine Club. "I was walking through snow up over my knees (Wednesday) and I was nowhere near 1,000 feet (above sea level)."

The snow is there for snowmachiners, skiers, skijorers and snowshoers alike, but getting to the hills may prove more challenging than some would prefer.

"Unfortunately, to get to the snow people have to travel Oilwell Road," Davis said. "That isn't fun this time of year. It is pretty rough through there, and I wouldn't recommend it to many people."

According to Davis, one of the dangers of enjoying the snow this time of year is all of the water that is gathering.

"People will just have to be careful of creeks and water," he said. "There is a lot of water out there. A couple times I thought I was riding a Jet Ski."

Although the time for traveling groomed trails is over, Davis said the condition of the snow makes it fairly easy to ride on.

"Clam Gulch is one of the roughest trails around, and it wasn't that bad," Davis said. "The trails haven't been groomed in a long time, and I would say they were fairly rough. The snow is real soft though and it makes it easier to ride on, so it's not that bad."

One of the pluses of enjoying the late winter snow is the lack of other users.

"I like the peacefulness and the quietness," Davis said. "There are times (during the winter) that even Caribou Hills gets too congested for me."

According to Davis, this is also a good time for those looking to enjoy the snow without a lot of snowmachine action around them.

"A tremendous number (of snowmachiners) are up at the Arctic Man (annual competition in Fairbanks)," Davis said. "I don't like going to those three-ring circuses, so the peace and quiet suits me well."

The question is, how much longer is the snow going to last?

"I don't know," Davis said. "It all depends on how warm it gets. Up in the hills there is quite a lot of snow left, so I think it will be a little while before it is all gone."

Davis said that the Caribou Hills are not the only place to go if looking for a good time in the snow.

Lost Lake, Summit Lake and the Turnagain Pass area still have plenty of snow to enjoy.

"The hills and the higher elevations usually keep snow there for quite a bit," Davis said. "I can only tell you (about Turnagain Pass) from driving through there, and there is a lot of snow. It felt like driving through a tunnel at times."

With good reason. Wednesday night about a foot of fresh snow fell on the pass, according to Rudi von Imhof, who owns Alaska Snow Safaris in Girdwood. The new snow, plus a winter's worth of accumulated base, should keep riders happy for a while.

"Conditions are pretty darned good," said von Imhof, who plans to continue guiding clients on tours of the pass into next week.

Despite the generally good riding, he advised caution.

"Some of the snow bridges over the creeks are starting to go or are already gone," he said. "It's warming up and there haven't been any slides there this winter. This is prime avalanche conditions. That's something to be concerned about."

But von Imhof said as long as riders remember to keep it safe, springtime can offer some excellent riding.

"You've got the long daylight hours and an excellent base (of snow)," he said. "It's definitely the nicest time of year to be out there."

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