Freezer Food Series to bring regular winter races to Tsalteshi Trails

The Salmon Run Series has finished its sixth season. The Soldotna Cycle series, though it has had other names, has completed its fifth season. Cyclocross has been touring for three seasons.

All three events happen at Tsalteshi Trails in the summer and fall, and all have been welcomed by the community. Their success begs a question: What about winter?

After all, the Tsalteshi Trails Association says it is a nonprofit dedicated to promoting Nordic skiing as a healthy individual and family activity.

Jordan Chilson, a board member with the association, said the group now has an answer in the Freezer Food Series, which will take place on 10 Wednesday evenings from Wednesday to Feb. 14.

“We’ve had a lot of community desire to have a weekly ski series, kind of like we have a weekly running series and a bike series,” Chilson said. “We’ve also had interest in other activities, like fat biking, so we figured we’d kill two birds with one stone with a multievent series.”

The plan is for five of the weeks to be skiing and five to be other types of winter activities, such as fat biking, running, ski-cross and relays.

There was a ski series at Tsalteshi in the past. One problem a ski series will always confront is the weather, which can cancel races and make a series tough to sustain.

Chilson said having a multievent series will make it easier to have a weekly event of some kind.

“The idea is, regardless of weather, there will be some type of event happening at Tsalteshi midweek through winter,” he said.

About a week before each race, Chilson will post on Tsalteshi’s Facebook page what next week’s event will be. Most will begin at the Skyview Middle School trailhead. If Mother Nature disagrees with Chilson’s planned race, he will post updates on the Facebook page as the week progresses.

For instance, a five-kilometer ski race is planned for Wednesday, but a quick glance at the forecast shows that very well could change.

Like the summer series, hardcore racers are welcomed but the emphasis will be on getting people out and enjoying the trails.

“It isn’t meant as a weekly iron-man, elite-of-the-elite race,” Chilson said. “We want to welcome everyone. It’s going to be very casual in nature like the Salmon Run Series.”

Races will stick to lighted trails initially, and Chilson will give advance notice when headlamps are needed.

But in a nod to the spirit of competition, Chilson said there will be a cumulative points system for the series.

The Freezer Food Series, whose chief partners are Central Peninsula Hospital and Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, also takes a lead from the Salmon Run Series in benefiting a nonprofit.

While the Salmon Run Series helps the Kenai Watershed Forum, the Freezer Food Series will raise food for the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.

Registration for each race is $6 for trails association members and $12 for nonmembers. But those numbers drop to $5 and $10 with food donation.

There will be no online registration. Each Wednesday, registration will be at 5:30 p.m., while the race starts at 6 p.m. Credit cards are an accepted method of payment.

When it comes to food donation, Chilson said Freezer Food Series is a bit of a misnomer — more of a nod to winter chill than suggested donation items. He said nonperishable foods are recommended, especially those that will find a natural place on the dinner table during this holiday season.

The Freezer Food Series, like the Soldotna Cycle Series and cyclocross, will have one big event — and possibly two big events — for racers to work toward. The Tour of Tsalteshi 2018 will be Feb. 18, with 20K and 40K options. More comprehensive information is available at tsalteshi.org.

Chilson said he is also trying to get together an Ice Man event for Feb. 24. Ice Man would feature skiing, fat biking, running and swimming. Chilson emphasized he is still trying to plan Ice Man and is not sure if he will be able to pull it together yet.

Just as the summer series have evolved to get better over time, Chilson said he is open to suggestions.

“Right now, this series is definitely in its infancy,” he said. “It could change. Maybe there’s not as much interest in the variance races and all the users will want to get out and ski.

“The format allows us to expand to a broader user base, and guarantee something is happening each week regardless of weather.”

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