Winter has arrived and the landscape has been cloaked under a sparkling mantle of snow as far as the eye can see. But, with the falling of the first snow, some peninsula residents start to lament about the dropping temperatures and dwindling hours of daylight.
Why? It doesn't have to be this way.
Not only does winter abound with fun and exciting outdoor activities, it also offers a solitude and tranquility that can't be found in the warmer months. There also are less crowds, no bugs, no bears and no leaves to block the many magnificent views.
There really is no season like snow season, and what better way to combat cabin fever than to get out and about and enjoy all that the peninsula has to offer during winter.
Dog mushing and skijoring
Dog mushing has been an integral part of Alaska's history and continues to be an exciting and adventurous pastime today.
The peninsula is home to the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race, hailed by many as the toughest qualifying race for the Iditarod in the state. There also is the Tustumena 100 race, which is shorter in length, but equally challenging.
Both races run from the Tustumena Lodge in Kasilof, up into the Caribou Hills and then back to the lodge. For more information on the T-200, call 262-4216.
The Peninsula Sled Dog Racing Association (PSDRA) puts on several races throughout the season, as well as holding several informal fun-runs through the trails network behind Soldotna Municipal Airport.
Skijoring is a sport that combines Nordic skiing, canine athleticism and mushing skills. It involves letting a dog, or dogs, pull a skier by connecting them together with a specially designed belt and tugline.
PSDRA will hold a skijor clinic in addition to their normal skijor events this winter. For more information on PSDRA events, contact Mitch Michaud at 252-5350.
The Kenai Peninsula abounds with great locations for cross-country skiers, for amateurs and experienced skiers alike.
For the novice looking for a little flat land fun, the Kenai Nordic Trails are a good option. There are two trail heads, one at the Kenai Golf Course and another behind the Peninsula Oilers baseball field. For more information, contact the Kenai Parks and Recreation Department at 283-3692.
Tsalteshi Trails, behind Skyview High School, has several trails options. With dips, hills and turns, this area offers terrain for all levels of skiers. These trails frequently are used by high school ski teams and stay well-groomed. They also are wide enough for those that enjoy skate skiing. For more information, go online to www.tsalteshi.org.
For those looking for more classic skiing and a bit of backcountry experience, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge has some good ski trails. Four of the trails are groomed, with the shortest being 1.5 miles and the longest at 6 miles in length. The refuge also has several ungroomed trails, including a 2-mile loop around Headquarters Lake. For more information on these trails, contact the refuge at 262-7021.
For those who love fitness, adventure and nature, snowshoeing is a perfect combination of all three. It not only is a great way to enjoy some of your favorite summer destinations in winter, but unlike a lot of sports, snowshoeing is easy to learn and almost anyone can do it.
Peninsula hiking trails are dramatically different during the winter, and many popular trails have alternate winter routes.
The Swan Lake and Swanson River Canoe Trails are popular backcountry snowshoeing destinations. The Hidden Creek, Kenai River and Seven Lakes trails also are great locations to discover the world of winter hiking.
For more information on these trails, contact the refuge at 262-7021. The book "55 Ways to the Wilderness in Southcentral Alaska," by Helen Nienhuser and John Wolfe Jr. is a good resource for winter hiking trails.
Some believe ice fishing enthusiasts are hooked on a sport with a hole in the middle, but for those in the know, ice fishing can be extremely productive.
Rainbow trout, Dolly Varden and land-locked salmon are just a few of the species available to those up to the challenge of ice fishing. The numerous watersheds throughout the peninsula support abundant fish populations, but the Alaska Department of Fish and Game also stocks a multitude of lakes and ponds.
Trustworthy Hardware in Soldotna sponsors an annual ice fishing derby that runs from Feb. 1 through 28. For more information on the derby, call 262-4655.
For more information on winter fishing regulations, contact the Fish and Game at 262-9368. The book "The Highway Angler Ice Fishing," by Gunnar Pedersen also is a valuable resource with information on where, when and how to ice fish in Alaska.
Snowmachining is always a popular winter pastime for those who enjoy full throttle excitement. The refuge maintains designated areas for snowmachine use.
The Resurrection Pass Trail in the Chugach National Forest offers 38.6 miles of trail. It runs through the high country between Hope and the Sterling Highway and has several cabins along the way.
The Russian Lakes Trail is another popular snowmachine trail. It has three cabins along the way and is just under 30 miles in length. For more information on these trails, contact the refuge at 262-7021.
Captain Cook State Recreation Area in Nikiski offers some good snowmachining in the Gray Cliffs subdivision, north of the park toward Point Possession. Also, rides are possible at Stormy Lake when it freezes up. For more information on these and other trails, contact Alaska State Parks at 262-5581.
For those who live a little further south, there are plenty of places to ride in the Caribou Hills. The trails throughout the area are maintained by the Caribou Hills Cabin Hoppers snowmachine club. They also host several races and events throughout the winter months.
For more information, call 262-5124.
Ice skating is a fun activity that the whole family can do together. In addition to many outdoor locations to ice skate around the peninsula once the ice gets thick enough, there are also several indoor areas.
The Kenai Multipurpose Facility opened its ice skating facility Oct. 1. For more information, contact the Kenai Parks and Recreation Department at 283-3692.
The Soldotna Sports Center frequently is used for practice by area hockey teams, but does schedule hours for use by the general public. For open hours to the public, call 262-3150.
The Nikiski ice rink next to the Nikiski pool also is a good place to ice skate. For information, call 776-8800.
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