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Skiers find scant snow available on local Nordic trails


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Eagle River’s Alex Smith races down a hill at the Chugiak Stampede Nordic ski races at Kincaid Park on Saturday, Jan. 12.

MATT TUNSETH

It wasn’t exactly home, but Chugiak’s Sam Hartke looked plenty comfortable covering the 7.5-kilometer classic course at Kincaid Park Saturday, Jan. 12.

Hartke finished fifth to claim the top spot among Chugiak-Eagle River athletes. The senior covered a wet course in 27:24.7, a little over two minutes off the pace set by winner Lydia Blanchett of West.

The “Chugiak Stampede” race was originally scheduled for the trails at Beach Lake, but this winter’s unseasonably warm temperatures and rain swamped that plan.

That’s not unusual. Parks and Recreation Department Director John Rodda told the local Parks Board on Monday, Jan. 14 that trails in the area aren’t skiable.

“There are no trails,” he told the board.

A winter of below-average snowfall, he said, combined with recent warm weather and rain, had conspired to destroy what trails the department had been maintaining.

“In some areas that’s all there is — nothing,” he said of ski trails at Beach Lake turned to gravel over the preceding week.

But on Saturday, Kincaid still had plenty of snow to host hundreds of Anchorage-area athletes for the interval-start event.

Hartke was followed across the finish line by teammates Shannon Casey (15th), Kate Arthen (20th), Annie Connely (28th), Hannah Booher (29th) and Maggie Wallace (30th).

Chugiak’s girls finished fifth overall. Eagle River didn’t field a girls ‘A’ team.

The Wolves’ Will Timmons (34:40.5) was the top local on the boys side, finishing in 11th place overall. Homeschooler Michael Wise won the 10-kilometer race in 32:03.1.

Eagle River’s Ben Smith was 14th for the sixth-place Wolves, followed by Alec Smith (32nd) and Samuel Erickson (41st).

Freshman Roan Hall was Chugiak’s top skier, clocking a time of 35:58.5 for the sixth-place Mustangs. He was followed by Tim Sorensen (24th), Caleb Huntington (37th), Nathan Dennis (38th), Michael Teeples (39th), Grant Ensign (40th), and Josh Keller (42nd).

There are no high school races this weekend, although Besh Cup racers will be in action — weather permitting — Jan. 19 and 20 at Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna.

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