Rain puts damper on early skiing

Posted: Friday, November 12, 2004

As quickly as the good skiing came, it went.

Skiers could hardly believe their good fortunes when on Oct. 31, an afternoon snowfall came to usher in November winter like clockwork.

Throughout the first week of November, more and more snow came, building a better base at the ski trails.

Early Tuesday, trail conditions at places like Tsalteshi Trails and the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge were perfect after 3 to 6 inches of powder fell on top of a nice base.

Since then, rain and warm temperatures have been obliterating all the accumulated hope of early November.

As Dave Kenagy, refuge ranger, wrote early in the week: "Warm temperatures are predicted for the next week, perhaps longer. This does not sound good to the ski ranger. Good ski conditions will only return with colder temperatures and a bunch more snow."

Kenagy also reported that the ice on Headquarters Lake is not solid enough to handle any traffic.

Some groomers are holding out some hope for decent skiing returning, but all say temperatures will need to stay below freezing for it to happen.

At Tsalteshi Trails, located behind Skyview High School, groomer Bill Holt did not roll out many of the loops after Tuesday's snowfall.

By not rolling out the loops, the snow still could provide good skiing once the temperature drops below freezing and that snow is groomed.

The loops that were rolled out were skied on Wednesday when the snow was soggy. Those ruts from skiers' tracks will freeze once the temperature drops below freezing, and Holt will have a hard, if not impossible time, repairing the trail. Only new snow will do the trick.

Holt also mentioned that there will be trail construction at Tsalteshi in the near future, and requested that skiers give all heavy equipment a wide berth.

Nikiski received a bunch of snow Tuesday, but also has been hit by the warm temperatures and rain.

"We had 3 feet of nice powder, and now it's down to a foot of wet snowpack," said Dale Bakk, who grooms the trails in Nikiski.

Bakk also is hoping the temperature will drop below freezing for a few days so he can make something of what snow remains.

Homer, which at times can be a good place to find skiing early in the season, is not coming through this year. Dave Brann, the vice president of the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club, said rain this week also wiped out the skiing in Homer.

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