If you’re an avid skier, you know exactly what I mean by that one word. We have snow. Real snow _” as measured by the only criteria that matters _” can you ski it? This week we can respond with a resounding “hell yes!”
OK, so Girdwood fans had to wait a few more days and divert to the few lifts at Hilltop. Cross-country skiers, however, had their pick of routes in the backcountry. Eight inches of fresh snow Nov. 20 provided many opportunities to carve virgin tracks.
UAA exchange student Kristian Sakkestad and I drove up to the Upper O’Malley trail head to knock the dust off our skis and fire up those secondary muscles that only get used while gliding across the snow.
Our chosen route was to take the Gasline trail north for a quarter mile, turn northeast on the White Spruce trail for six-tenths of a mile, and head east on the Powerline trail until it reconnects with the Gasline trail. This would give us a four-mile loop.
The trails hadn’t been groomed yet, but a few other skiers had been out before us, so the going was pretty easy _” unless I suddenly stopped gliding along when my dog would occasionally step on the back of a ski.
Several side trips depart from the Powerline trail, including Blueberry Hollow and Hemlock Knob. Both could probably use another layer of snow because there are spots along the trail with thick roots and dense tree cover.
After re-connecting with the Gasline trail, we chose to continue up the Powerline trail for another mile-plus to check out the conditions. East of the Glen Alps turn-off, the snow thins to about four inches on top of some very crusty ice and an occasional slushy stretch, but it’s still decent skiing. No new avalanches could be seen, but the danger is definitely out there.
Speaking of dangers, we ran into a moose cow and calf on the lower portion of the Gasline trail. The fresh snow can drive wildlife onto the trails, so you have to be willing to share. After sizing up the cow’s mild temperament, we moved just a few feet off the trail and they both passed within about 20 feet of us _” close enough to hear their knee joints creaking.
Skiing back down the Gasline trail is a treat. It’s either downhill, or flat with some nice glide. Last winter, I got rid of my touring skis in favor of a back-country set. Now that I have metal edges and some side-cut I can actually carve some turns when going downhill. Skiing has evolved from an activity that I used to survive to one I really enjoy.
Our round-trip mileage ended up being six miles. This area allows for short outings of a few miles or an all-day trip depending on how much time and light you have. So get out and make some tracks. You never know when it’s going to rain again.
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