On the heels of a tough winter for skiing last year, area skiers have been enjoying excellent early season skiing this year.
"After last year, this is just super," said Dave Brann, the vice president of the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club. "Everybody's grinning and telling us we've done a great job on the trails, but basically all we've done is packed snow.
"People are just excited to be skiing."
Dale Bakk, who grooms trails out in Nikiski, said the trails out there are already in better shape than they were at any time last year.
With last year fresh in the minds of many groomers, they are hesitant to nit-pick about this year. But, while skiing remains great, the snow on many trails is starting to run a little thin.
"Boy, 6 inches would just buff it right up," Brann said. "It would be in even better shape."
At Tsalteshi Trails, which now has about 11 kilometers of loops for skiers, the skiing has been great, according to groomer Bill Holt.
The trails, which range from easy to difficult and are located behind Skyview High School, all have classical tracks in them. Holt said his one concern is that the layer of snow is running pretty thin. Although there are no bare spots, he is taking care when scratching up the trail to create fresh powder for skiers.
Across the Sterling Highway at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Brenda Wise, a refuge clerk, said the trails there have yet to be groomed.
At the Kenai Nordic Trails, located on the Kenai Golf Course, Bob Frates, the director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, said the course's 5-kilometer loop has been groomed. The loop is mostly flat with a few hills.
Frates said there have been no classical tracks put in yet. He said doing that could be dicey because of shallow snow cover.
"The snow's a little thin in areas, but you're not going to damage any skis," Frates said. "We've just had to be cautious while we're grooming."
Frates also said the Parks and Recreation Department, along with the Kenai Central High School team, will put on some ski clinics this year. Call 283-3855 for more information.
Out in Nikiski, Bakk has the 3 kilometers of trails at the Nikiski pool groomed for skating and classical skiing. The trails are mostly easy, with a few challenging dips.
At the Nikiski Community Trails, which are located at Nikiski Middle-Senior High School, Bakk has all 5.5 kilometers groomed for skating. There also are some classical tracks put in on some of the trails.
The community trails are of moderate difficulty, with several challenging hills.
In Homer, Brann said good skiing can be had at Lookout Mountain and at the Baycrest Ski Trails. The McNeil Canyon Ski Trails are not ready for action yet.
The trail head for Lookout Mountain is located on Ohlson Mountain Road in Homer. Currently, there is a 3-kilometer loop groomed for skating. The trail is mostly flat and easy.
If traveling from Soldotna toward Homer, Baycrest can be found by taking a left on Roger's Loop Road from the Sterling Highway. Roger's Loop is before the big hill into Homer and just after the Texaco station.
Baycrest offers skiing for all levels. Brann said there are probably 10 kilometers of trails ready for good skiing, and another 5 to 8 kilometers that are fair. Since there are no trail signs up yet at Baycrest, Brann said to pay attention to navigation while skiing.
In Seward, Dennis Perry, president of the Seward Nordic Ski Club, said the only trail skiing is at Exit Glacier Road. These trails are located at about Mile 5 of the Seward Highway and can be as long as 8 miles one way. The trails are groomed for skating and are, in general, flat.
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