Winter is quickly ending. Summer is coming on fast.
At that crossroads sits not only Choose Your Weapon — a race involving bikes, skis and running this Sunday at Tsalteshi Trails — but also a host of questions:
n What’s new at Tsalteshi Trails this summer?
n What etiquette do all trail users follow in the muddy transition from winter to summer?
n What things must be done to prepare bikes for summer action and skis for summer slumber?
Uniquely situated to answer all those questions is Mark Beeson, the president of the Tsalteshi Trails Association as well as a co-owner at Beemun’s, which has a bike shop and also sells skis.
First up is Choose Your Weapon, with registration at 1:30 p.m. and racing at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Skyview Middle Schools side of Tsalteshi Trails. Registration also is available at tsalteshi.org.
The race returns after an absence of several years.
“We have snow late enough to do it, and I got the itch to do a bike race this year earlier than in the past,” Beeson said.
The event is 10 kilometers long. On each five-kilometer lap, competitors have the option of skiing, running or biking.
In years past, all disciplines have been lumped into one, putting the runners at a big disadvantage to, say, the bikers.
This year, Beeson has an elaborate system of time bonuses worked out based on the discipline and the time it takes to transition between disciplines.
“I just wanted to make it a little more complicated,” he said.
The event will be $10 for members of the Tsalteshi Trails Association and $15 for nonmembers.
Beeson said money raised beyond the cost of the race will got toward purchasing winter grooming equipment for the singletrack trails at Tsalteshi.
This summer, the same will go for funds raised from the Soldotna Cycle Series and the autumn’s cyclocross series.
“We’ve experimented with grooming the singletrack,” Beeson said. “It needs to be groomed to some extent and we’re trying to improve that with allocated money.”
Tsalteshi has become a major outlet for fat-bike riding in the winter, particularly because fat bikes are not allowed on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, which makes up a great deal of wilderness in the area.
The grooming equipment Tsalteshi owns is great for ski trails but does not work for the narrow, curving, undulating singletrack.
“We’ve had several instances where a bunch of people go out and pack it with snowshoes, taking at least three or fours hours, and then it snows again,” Beeson said. “A groomer could do that in an hour, hour and a half.”
With singletrack set to expand this summer at the Tsalteshi-satellite Slikok Trails, Beeson he could even see a place like the Tsalteshi system becoming a destination place for fat bikers from out of the area.
What’s new at Tsalteshi?
Beeson said the biggest new program this summer is the Tsalteshi Youth Sprockets Bike Program.
The program, which will be in June and July, is four those ages 8 to 16. Kids will be coached on how to ride a mountain bike and how to navigate Tsalteshi Trails.
Beeson said the Sprockets program was spurred by a similar program in Anchorage, plus the successful Tsalteshi Trails Youth Ski Program.
“We’ve had members really excited about doing this,” Beeson said. “They took it on and made it happen.”
The goal was 36 kids this summer, but Beeson said he believes that number has been met. But he stressed interested parents should still go to tsalteshi.org to register because of the possibility of cancellations or an expanded program to meet demand.
Another new event is May Cross, a cyclocross race which will be held May 6 at the Slikok Trails with more detail yet to come. This will be an hourlong cyclocross race.
“The point of it is to be sloppy,” Beeson said.
Another new wrinkle this summer will be at the Tri-The-Kenai Triathlon, taking place June 10. This year, the biking will all be done on the trails system, as opposed to road riding in years past. The Tri-The-Kenai also will include a duathlon — or run-bike-run — this summer for the first time.
What about spring trail etiquette?
Beeson said this can be a cruel time of year for trail enthusiasts, because the air is warm and full of sun, yet the muddy trails are still shaking off winter’s frost and snow.
The damage that can be done varies depending on the trail, but Beeson said a good rule of thumb this time of year is that if your bike is leaving a major rut, or your feet are sinking in deep, find something else to do for the day.
“It’s really important to stay off the singletrack once the snow melts,” Beeson said. “Just because of the way it’s compacted, it’s really hard to dig out those ruts.”
Beeson said Tsalteshi will post a closure of the singletrack on its Facebook site soon.
As for the normal trail system, Beeson said ruts are not as impactful, but they still are a problem and he still asks for courtesy in order to make trail maintenance as easy as possible.
Finally, he said the same thing goes for popular mountain-biking trails like Resurrection Pass and Crescent Lake.
What gets bikes, skis ready for summer?
On bikes, Beeson said the tires will be flat after sitting for the winter. In most cases, he said they merely must be pumped up and they’ll be fine.
He also recommended a wash, lubing up the chain and cables, and checking things like brakes and wheels for safety’s sake before riding.
As for skis, Beeson said to iron on a coat of wax, preferably a soft coat, and then leave that wax on for the summer for protection’s sake.
He then said to put straps on skis that will keep the bases apart, but stressed not to put the straps on tight. Don’t store the ski with any of the camber, or bend in the ski, compressed. Also don’t store it someplace where the ski will get a lot of sun, or someplace, like near a heating element, where the ski could get very hot.