Cold winter has ski trails in better shape than last

Thursday, December 22, 2016 - 10:46
Groomer says winter chill makes job much easier

Fresh snow fell on the Beach Lake Trails near Chugiak High School Monday, much to the delight of afternoon skiers and the man whose job it is to keep the trails looking fresh.

“This is 100 percent better than last year,” said Bill Brion, a trail groomer with the Nordic Ski Association of Alaska.

Brion said this time last year the trails off of South Birchwood Loop were “just ice” after a freeze-thaw cycle, warm temperatures and little snow conspired to make the trails a mess. Not so this year, as Brion has had enough white stuff to work with to keep the trails skiing smooth.

The difference is temperature.

“Mostly it’s because it’s been very cold,” said Brion, who tries to hit the Beach Lake trails about twice a week.

As he prepared to hop aboard the association’s groomer, Brion watched small flakes of fluffy snow fall onto the trails as a pair of skiers from the neighborhood whooshed past.

“If it snows, they will come,” he quipped.

Bob and Kristi Warren of Chugiak checked out their local trails Monday and said the ski conditions were excellent.

“But don’t tell anybody,” Bob joked.

The couple didn’t really ski at all during last winter’s wet, warm winter, but has already been out to Beach Lake several times this winter. The couple agreed that the trails are a community asset.

“We’re very happy this community has ski trails for us like this,” Kristi said.

Eagle River’s Bill Corbett praised the NSAA for the grooming work it does. The association grooms numerous trails in the Anchorage area, including the trails at Eagle River High School and at Mirror Lake Middle School – which has new lights this year.

“These guys do such a great job,” Corbett said of the groomers’ efforts.

As for the crowds that could be coming as local schools head toward winter break, Corbett said there should be plenty of room for everyone on the trails.

“Tell ‘em it’s fun,” he said.

Nature Center takes a break

The Eagle River Nature Center at the end of Eagle River Road will be closed from Dec. 21 through New Year’s Day. However, the center’s trails are always open. To reach the center, drive approximately 12 miles out Eagle River Road until you reach its end. Parking is available. For more information on the Nature Center, visit its website at

Arctic Valley still waiting

Although the snow year has been better than last, there’s still not enough of the white stuff to open the lifts at Arctic Valley. According to the ski area’s website, they still needed about a foot of snow as of Monday. Information on when the area will open can be found on the group’s website at

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