After sitting fallow for a solid year due to the warmest winter in memory last year, the Karen Street Recreation Area snow hill is now open.
The downtown Soldotna hill opened with little fanfare Saturday, amid wind and warm temperatures, but it didn't deter a handful of boarders from pulling 360 nose grabs and rodeos from the top jump.
"It was kind of lightly attended, but we didn't have any grand celebration and it was a crummy day," Soldotna City Manager Tom Boedeker said. "But the kids who went down it seemed to enjoy themselves.
"For those going down, it was definitely not a blase deal, they got some excitement out of it."
He said the top section where it was steep probably was the most fun. It's also where the top "kicker" or jump is.
"That's probably where you get the biggest air at," said Mike Sturm, a Skyview High School junior and spokesperson for the Skyview and Soldotna high schools skateboard and snowboard club.
"Tyler Osland was doing rodeos from the top kicker," he added.
Sturm described a rodeo as a back flip with a late 180-degree turn.
"And I pulled a couple 360s off of it," he said.
Sturm said the half-pipe -- a trough dug out of the slope for snowboarders to perform aerial maneuvers off the sides -- didn't have enough snow on it and wasn't steep enough.
"I'm sure they want it faster, and I'm sure they'll love it when it happens, but right now, we have to go with what we have," Boedeker said.
Erik Leman, also a junior at Skyview, said he's been looking forward to the Karen Street hill opening.
"If you don't have a ride to Alyeska, it's the best hill around this area," he said. "My friends are excited about it."
Boedeker said the snow fencing near the bottom of the hill will be removed as soon as there is enough snow to fill in that area.
He said the city will make one change, and that is requiring snowboards have harnesses so the board does not go careening down the hill unattended when the rider falls off.
Sturm said he would like to see rails, as in hand-rails, installed where the hill flattens out near the bottom for boarders to do stunts off of.
Cyndi and Jim Helleck explore the sled hill with their son Ryan.
Photo by M. SCOTT MOON
"It's a real good place to learn," Sturm said. "It's relatively small and you don't have to worry about getting too much speed up and hurting yourself crashing."
As for crashing, the city spent nearly $10,000 for insurance on the hill. It went into effect Friday.
The snowboard hill hours are Wednesday and Friday after school and weekends starting at 11 a.m.
There also is a sledding hill of to the side for the slightly less adventurous.
The persistent rumor that Boedeker himself will strap on a board and go looking for mad air is simply not true.
"People are spreading that rumor, but my momma didn't raise a fool," he said. "Somebody asked me if I was getting on there, but the few joints I have that are not aching are refusing to let me. If I were to, it would be a very short run, from the bottom five feet of the hill."
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