FAIRBANKS — Only about 5 inches of snow has fallen so far this winter in Fairbanks, but nobody is complaining about conditions on local cross-country ski trails.
“It’s better than not skiing,” Bear Edson, superintendent of roads and grounds at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said of the marginal trail conditions at UAF and on other ski trails.
Groomer Tom Helmers said most skiers at Birch Hill Recreation Area are using “rock skis,” the term skiers use for old, beat-up skis that are expendable.
“I don’t think you want to bring your new $500 Salomons out yet,” Helmers said.
Though there aren’t any rocks showing on the trails per se, there are plenty of leaves and twigs showing. Despite the organic conditions, there has been plenty of traffic at Birch Hill since the first snow fell last week, Helmers said on Wednesday.
“There have been lots of people skiing,” he said.
The Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks’ Junior Nordics programmed started on Sunday and high school teams began training at Birch Hill this week. The trails are getting hard and somewhat chewed up from the traffic but it hasn’t deterred skiers itching to get on snow. Conditions are actually pretty good at Birch Hill, Helmers said. All 26 kilometers of trails at Birch Hill have been packed and there is thin track set on about 18K. The 10K of lighted trail is getting hard and slightly rutted from all the traffic but there’s not much groomers can do, Helmers said.
“It’s not bad skiing, but we can’t re-groom it until we get more snow,” he said. “We need at least double what we have.
“A little bit of snow would really help the classical tracks,” Helmers said. “At least it would fill the bottoms.”
The situation is the same at UAF, where all 15K of skating trail has been rolled and packed except the trails across Ballaine Lake and around Smith Lake. Groomer Jason Garron reported 6 inches of ice on both Ballaine and Smith lakes and said the trails on the lakes should be groomed by the weekend. There are no tracks set at UAF yet.
The Salcha Ski Trails at Salcha Elementary School, 40 miles southeast of town, are also ready for skiing, groomer John Alich reported. All 15K of trails have been rolled and there is track set on the 5K loop, he said.
“I think you got a little more snow in town than we got out here,” Alich said, estimating the snowfall at 4 inches compared to 5 or 6 in town.
The Two Rivers Ski Trails at Two Rivers Elementary School at 18.5 Mile Chena Hot Springs Road haven’t been rolled yet but that hasn’t stopped some skiers from trying them out, said groomer Kay Kindt.
“Skiers have been out packing them down,” she said.
Groomers still have to remove a couple of downed trees that fell on the trail before they can be rolled, a job she expected to be done by this weekend.
The classical ski trails at Chena Lakes Recreation Area in North Pole need more snow before they can be worked over, too, said manager Matt Steffy with the Fairbanks North Star Borough Parks and Recreation Department.
“We’ve got plenty of folks coming out skiing but they’re not skiing on much,” he said. “It’d be nice to get some snow so we could get the trails in shape.”
Contact outdoors editor Tim Mowry at 459-7587.