This week, spring skiing arrived on the Kenai Peninsula. Timing has now become everything.
Go skiing when the suddenly active sun and warmth has had too long to liquefy the surface, and be slowed by mushy snow.
Go skiing in the dead of night when all that moisture in the snow has frozen, and be forced to brave icy conditions.
But go skiing at just the right time between those two extremes, and enjoy some of the most pleasurable skiing of the year.
"It's getting to be that time of the year when it can be icy in the morning, then soften up by afternoon," said Bill Holt, the vice chair of the Tsalteshi Trails Association. "The skiing can still be great, though."
The groomers at Tsalteshi Trails, located by Skyview High School, even groomed the trails a couple times this week in the morning to help break up the ice created at night.
Tsalteshi, which offers skiing for all levels, will have all 11 kilometers ready for skating for the weekend. Holt also said there should be classical tracks on most of the trails.
Across the highway at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, the skiing also is holding up well. The trails, which can be accessed at refuge headquarters on Ski Hill Road, were groomed early in the week. The only thing that may have hurt the trails was the strong wind whipping debris across the peninsula Thursday.
The Nordic Lake Trails offer four loops, with the longest being 6 miles. These trails are only for classical skiers and offer some hills that may challenge intermediate and beginning skiers.
The Overlook Routes offer two loops, with the longest being 2 miles. These trails are more ideal for snowshoeing.
At the Kenai Golf Course, the trail is still being groomed regularly for the public, and for skiing clinics that concluded Wednesday.
Bob Frates, the director of Kenai Parks and Recreation, said 6 kilometers are ready for skating. The trail is mostly flat, with a few hills that may challenge beginning skiers.
Out in Nikiski, groomer Dale Bakk has been enjoying new faces on the trail since he returned from the state ski meet Sunday.
Nikiski hosted a relay high school meet, a region high school meet and a middle school meet recently, and Bakk thinks that's sparked interest in the trails.
"I think it's just that people finally came over to watch the kids ski, and they're coming back to experience something they thought they'd really enjoy," Bakk said. "Seeing somebody out I've never seen before every day tickles me pink."
Those skiing in the Nikiski area have two options. Bakk suggested those wanting to classical ski should go to the trail behind the Nikiski pool. These trails are 3 kilometers long and have a few dips that may challenge beginning skiers.
Those wanting to skate ski should head to the Nikiski Community Trails, which are located at Nikiski Middle-Senior High School. These trails have 5 kilometers of intermediate to advanced skiing.
Down in Homer, conditions are considerably different than those on the central peninsula. The Homer area received a foot to a foot and a half of snow Monday.
"Homer's a little strange," said Dave Brann, the vice president of the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club. "We get these storms that come in and just catch the end of the peninsula."
After a week of packing, groomers in Homer were expecting to have the trails in good shape for the weekend.
The Baycrest Ski Trails offer skiing for all levels. The trails can be accessed from two trail heads. The first is on Roger's Loop from the Sterling Highway. Roger's Loop is before the big hill into Homer and just after the Texaco station. The second is from the Department of Transportation station just before Homer.
Brann said there should be 30 or 35 kilometers for skating and 10 or 15 kilometers for classical skiing by the weekend.
Brann also is in the process of putting in a snowshoe loop at Baycrest. The loop should take 45 minutes to one hour to complete.
The McNeil Canyon Ski Trails, located 12 miles out East End Road at McNeil Canyon Elementary School, also should be packed for the weekend. These trails, with the longest loop being 7.5 kilometers, also are suitable for all levels of skiers.
Brann reminded skiers to mark their calendars for March 9, when the Kachemak Bay Marathon Ski will be held at Baycrest. There are races of 2, 5, 10, 20 and 42 kilometers, as well as activities for kids.
For registration and cost information, call Kenton Bloom at 235-6600.
In Seward, the skiing remains decent at the Mile 12 Ski Trails, located at Mile 12 of the Seward Highway. These trails have 3 kilometers of intermediate skating.
Exit Glacier Road, located at Mile 5 of the Seward Highway, also was holding up in spite of some rain this week in Seward. Exit Glacier is flat, doesn't have classical tracks and is 8 miles one way.
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