Kenai Peninsula ski season off to an early, snowy start

a sign
The Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna. (Sabine Poux/KDLL)

It’s not too early to get in first tracks on a handful of ski trail systems around the Kenai Peninsula. Already, skiers and trail-groomers like Chad Arthur are heading out on the Tsalteshi Trails, in Soldotna.

“We’ve been out rolling and compacting trails,” Arthur said from the trails Friday afternoon.

He said he’s already seen a lot of skiers take advantage of the early snowfall. The single-track at Tsalteshi, too, is ready for riders. Starting in November, skiers and riders will be able to follow along with a groomed trail tracker on the Tsalteshi website.

Homer’s trails are also getting a first pass. Kenny Daher is a groomer and one of the directors with the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club.

“The Hayfields — which is kind of the more mellow, flatter loop, right off of Olson Mountain Road — is all groomed up and in shape for early season skiing in a great way,” he said Friday.

That loop is part of the Lookout Trail system. Daher said the McNeil trails, up East End Road, are at a lower elevation and aren’t quite ready for skiers, yet.

Kenai Parks and Recreation, which maintains trails at the Kenai Golf Course, is waiting for its snowmachines to get serviced before it starts grooming. Parks and Recreation Director Brad Walker said they’ll start grooming this week.

Volunteers with trailsystems in Cooper Landing and Seward are still waiting on more flurries to stick and stay before they begin grooming.

David Story, who chairs Cooper Landing’s Trails Committee, said he’s excited to have access to the ski trails at the Devil’s Creek Trailhead again this winter, with the Russian River Campground closed for construction. The Cooper Landing Community Club got a grant last year to add a roller-compactor to its small fleet of grooming equipment.

The Caribou Hills Cabin Hoppers, in Ninilchik, are also waiting on more snow.

Rick Bailey is president and grooming coordinator for the group, which maintains 130 miles of snowmachine trails in the Caribou Hills. He said their trails need more snow than ski trails before they can start grooming.

“Typically, ski trails are groomed hiking trails in the summertime and have no motorized traffic,” Bailey said. “The trails that we groom are more natural terrain.”

He said he’s hoping there will be more snow come November.

“We got one machine ready to go and we’re in the process of servicing another right now,” Bailey said. “And hopefully in the next week or two, we’ll be all cleaned up and ready to go. Just waiting on some snow.”

Over on the northern peninsula, the Nikiski Community Park is entering its third year of grooming ski trails. The Nikiski Community Council maintains two and a half miles of groomed trails at the park, off Hedberg Drive.

Groomer Gabe Lavigueur said he’s hoping to add an additional mile-plus to the route, which extends from Hedberg Lake to the bluff.

“This winter, we plan on expanding off of the multi-use trails,” he said. “Anyone is able to use them — you can walk on them, walk your dogs, ride your fat-tire bike or cross-country ski.” (Just no motorized vehicles, he noted.)

Lavigueur said he’s planning on grooming the trials Monday evening and with each new snowfall this winter.

At this early point in the season, Daher, in Homer, said any amount of skiing is a bonus.

“We’re looking forward to a great season that’s starting really early,” he said. “Happy skiing!”

More snow is in the forecast for Kenai beginning Wednesday.

Previous articleIn Bethel, a homegrown solution to the state’s nursing shortage
Next articleHouse candidates agree bycatch is a problem. They have different approaches to solving it