FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Skiers who want to use the Birch Hill Ski and Snowboard Area on Fort Wainwright will need a friend in uniform.
As a result of heightened security on military bases since Sept. 11, civilian skiers must be accompanied by a military identification holder to get on base if they want to ski or snowboard at Birch Hill.
''You'll need to find somebody with a valid government ID card,'' said Fort Wainwright public affairs officer Linda Douglass.
The skier's ''sponsor'' must remain with the skier at all times.
Birch Hill opened Thursday. It's traditionally the first of Fairbanks' three downhill ski areas to open because it is the only one equipped with a snowmaking machine. Crews have spent the last three weeks spraying man-made snow onto the slopes and the main portion of the hill is in good shape.
That's despite the fact that only 7.2 inches of snow has fallen in Fairbanks so far this winter, about 9 inches below normal. Downhill ski areas on Moose Mountain and Cleary Summit need another foot of snow before there's enough to open. Weather forecasts don't show much hope for snow in the area for the next few days.
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