Skiers hopes dashed by weather

Posted: Friday, December 22, 2000

By mid-December, peninsula cross-country skiers usually have a buffet of options before them.

This year, however, an uncharacteristically warm winter is dishing up skiers a bread-and-water diet -- nothing too substantial, but just enough to get by on.

Trails still not skiable as of Wednesday were the Nikiski Community Trails, the trails behind the Nikiski Pool, the Kenai Nordic Trails, Exit Glacier Road, Baycrest Ski Trails and the wooded trails at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

"High school teams are managing to practice every day, so there is skiing available," said Alan Boraas, a member of the Tsalteshi Trails Association. "Just stay loose and be flexible."

One area where skiing is available is Tsalteshi Trails, located behind Skyview High School. Volunteers have been clocking a lot of time trying to make the trails skiable after warm weather and rain sabotaged snow that fell early in the week.

"As of today, it's skiable," Boraas said during Wednesday's showers and 40 degree temperatures. "Who knows what will happen with this warmer weather."

As of Wednesday, Tsalteshi had about 5 kilometers of trails groomed. Skiers should be exceptionally wary of icy patches, especially on downhill turns.

Those looking for a purely flat way to start off their ski season could hop across the Sterling Highway and ski on Headquarters Lake, which can be accessed from the headquarters of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

"It's icy getting down to Headquarters Lake and you can't ski the entire way down," said Candace Ward, a park ranger at the refuge. "Once you get to the lake, the lake itself has snow."

Ward said Headquarters Lake is safely frozen, as are several other smaller, shallower lakes in the refuge. As always, though, use caution when venturing out onto frozen bodies of water.

There are other options available to those central peninsula residents willing to do some driving.

Lookout Mountain in Homer has a relatively flat 2.5-kilometer loop that had enough snow to survive the recent rain and warmth in Homer.

To get to Lookout Mountain, take East Hill Road in Homer up to Skyline Drive, then take Skyline to Ohlson Mountain Road.

"Lookout Mountain is pretty good even though the weather's been crazy," said Dave Brann, the vice president of the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club. "We've been able to ski that for the last month."

There also are options available in Seward. The Mile 12 Ski Trails, located at Mile 12 of the Seward Highway, has 2 to 3 feet of snow on it. Groomers were set to start working on it Thursday, according to Dennis Perry, president of the Seward Nordic Ski Club.

Perry also said upper Glacier Creek, accessible from Lake Drive at Mile 6 of the Seward Highway, is skiable. If skiers take the option of connecting with the Iditarod Historic Trail, they could get in as much as 10 or 12 kilometers there. The trail is mostly flat.

Cross-country skiers can also head to Turnagain Pass for a multitude of options, such as Summit Lake.

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