Groomers weirded out, skiing still good

Posted: Friday, December 05, 2003

Wednesday was a weird day to be a groomer of cross-country ski trails on the Kenai Peninsula.

In Homer, Dave Brann, the vice president of the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club, watched as 6 inches of snow piled on the area, only to be followed by afternoon rain.

Meanwhile, Bob Frates, the director of the Parks and Recreation Department of the city of Kenai, got a good indication from one of his groomers just how windy it was that day. The groomer took one pass at the Kenai Nordic Trails and the next time around, he could not even tell where he'd groomed the windblown trails the first time around.

The good news is that all the groomers said that trails should weather the storm and still provide decent skiing.

"It won't be good until it cools down, but once it cools down, we should have 15 to 20 kilometers packed out at Baycrest," Brann said. "It will take some time, but it could make for really good skating."

If traveling from Soldotna to Homer, Baycrest can be found by taking a left on Rodgers Loop Road from the Sterling Highway. Rodgers Loop is located just before the big hill into Homer and just after the Texaco station. There also is a trail head on the Sterling Highway next to the state Department of Trans-portation station.

Baycrest has skiing for those of all abilities.

The McNeil Canyon Ski Trails, which are 12 miles out east end road, also were getting pounded with snow. Brann said the 7.5 kilometers will be ready as soon as they are packed out and groomed.

Finally, Lookout Moun-tain, located on Ohlson Mountain Road, has about 3.5 kilometers of skiing that was good before the recent storm.

On the central peninsula, Frates said skiing at the Kenai Nordic Trails, which are located on the Kenai Golf Course, should remain fine. The 5 kilometers of skiing has some new twists and turns this year that Frates said are drawing good reviews from skiers.

The trails, which are mostly flat but have some hills that may challenge beginners, also have classic tracks set up.

At Tsalteshi Trails, which are located behind Skyview High School, Bill Holt, the chair of the Tsalteshi Trails Association, said all 15 kilometers are groomed for skating. In addition, all the loops except for the Lynx, Coyote and Raven now have classical tracks.

Holt said the strong winds left some debris on the trail, but said there is not enough debris to mess up skiing. However, he said skiers picking up random sticks and branches on the trail would do a lot to improve conditions in the long run.

Those planning on skiing or sledding at Skyview Friday or Saturday should be aware that the high school will be hosting the Skyview Invitational.

Friday at 5 p.m., a short sprint course near the school will be set up. The course will be lit by torches, and the public is free to ski the course after the race, which should take a few hours.

Saturday, there will be a classical race at 11 a.m. For those wanting a Saturday morning ski, Holt recommended parking at the trail head on Kalifornsky Beach Road, just across from the Soldotna Sports Center, and skiing the Wolverine and Bear loops.

By 3 p.m. Saturday, the whole trail system should be ready for skiing again.

Across the Sterling Highway at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Dave Kenagy, a ranger, said all the trails have recently been groomed.

Loop A, or the Orange Loop, is in excellent condition. This loop is suited for beginners. Loops B, C and D, or the Green, Yellow and Blue loops, are a bit more difficult.

Some of these loops are being rerouted, so skiers should watch for trail workers. Also, skiers on Loops C and D will encounter woody saplings and low-hanging branches on the trail. Anybody wanting to help clear these obstructions should call Kenagy at 260-6163.

The 2.9-mile Centennial Trail also has been recently groomed. This route heads north of the headquarters and is for snowshoers.

Finally, Headquarters Lake has only recently frozen and may not be safe for skiing or snowshoeing.

Out in Nikiski, Dale Bakk, the coach of the high school ski team, also was optimistic that the trails would survive the wind.

The trails behind the Nikiski pool have 3 kilometers groomed for skating, with no classical tracks. The trails are easy with a couple of challenging dips.

At the Nikiski Community Trails, which are located at Nikiski Middle-Senior High School, 5 kilometers are groomed for skating.

Also, 2 of those kilometers have classical tracks. Those trails are of moderate difficulty, with marked hills where skiers should exercise caution.

Finally, over in Seward, Rich Houghton, the ski coach of the high school, said early in the week that some skiing is available at Exit Glacier Road, which is located at Mile 5 of the Seward Highway.

These trails are flat and can be as long as 8 miles one way.

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