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Story Last modified at 10:52 p.m. on Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ski conditions plummet as temperatures soar

BY MATT TUNSETH
Alaska Star

photo:Sports

Members of the Chugiak High Nordic Ski team practice on the icy conditions at the Beach Lake Trails on Jan. 3. Icy trails caused by unseasonably warm temperatures made training a chore in the first week back in action for local prep skiers after the holiday break.
STAR PHOTO by Matt Tunseth

Trails that had been in near-perfect condition before the holiday break greeted returning prep Nordic skiers like the refrain of a Paul Simon song on Jan. 3 after a warm Chinook wind had athletes slip sliding away on their first day back at practice.

"We have no edges," said Chugiak varsity skier Ben Fitzgerald as he and his teammates skated intervals at the Beach Lake trails.

Unseasonably warm weather that hit the area on New Year's Eve caused the trails to turn from groomed and snowy to icy and slick in a matter of a couple days.

"It's solid ice," said Chugiak ski coach Gretchen Carrick.

Carrick said she sent her athletes out onto the trails to gauge conditions and see if a decent day's practice could be had without having to workout indoors.

"We're just going to see how the conditions are," she said.

Carrick said that her skiers were only skate skiing on the trails, both because the groomed classic tracks have melted down so much and because of the nature of the icy snow.

"It's clister snow, and to do clister (waxing) for 70 people is not worth it," she said.

She said the plan is to evaluate the conditions and see how things go as the week progresses.

"It's a day-by-day thing," she said.

Because of the icy trails, Carrick said she warned her skiers not to push their training too hard on their first day back from vacation.

"They have to be careful and they have to know what they're doing," she said.

If skiers and coaches decide the trails are just too slippery to practice on, Carrick said she could have them move indoors for cardiovascular training and weight lifting.

"There are specific things you can do that help them with their technique," she said.

The icy conditions may throw this weekend's Bartlett Relays, a freestyle event, into doubt, but Carrick said she believes the event will likely go ahead as scheduled.

"They usually do everything they can to have a race," she said.

According to the National Weather Service, cooler, more seasonable temperatures are expected for this weekend's races, which begin at 11 a.m. at the Bartlett trails.

Contact Matt Tunseth at matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com or 694-2727.



This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, January 5, 2011.