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by: Tim Kelley

Winter Season 2021: Ready For Winter ...

My goal is to always post new ski trips on this website, routes that I haven't skied before.  So, as usual, no trip report updates will be made here until I ski something new.

But ... there are 17 years of trip reports on this website, so there is plenty of content for you to peruse to get ideas for your future Alaska backcountry cross country skiing trips.

Stay healthy ... and don't let the 'rona bomb land on you!

Late October: The New Hemlock Burn Trail

XC skiers in Anchorage should consider checking out the completed section of the new Hemlock Burn Trail (HBT).  This is a tame downhill mountain bike singletrack trail that is fun to ski.  The trail has a gradual descent gradient, so there are no wild downhills. But of course, if the trail was covered in ice ... then you wouldn't want to be on it with skis.  Recently the trail conditions have been cold powder ... so no problem with control in the corners.

The completed section of the Hemlock Burn Trail, as of late October 2020, goes from near the lower Glen Alps parking lot to the intersection of the Prospect Heights Trail with the Gasline Trail.  The Hemlock Burn Trail crosses the Gasline Trail at that point and continues towards Prospect Heights.  This section of the HBT, though cleared, is still in various stages of construction.  But with enough snow and traffic it will probably come to life this winter.

The start of this trail has not yet been tied into the Glen Alps trailhead system.  So it's a little hard to find.  But the picture below should guide you were to go.  Unless it snowed recently, there should be tracks leading from near the lower parking lot to the trail start.

Note: As of late October this trail was not officially open.  There are signs on the trail that say it is still under construction.  But ... you will likely see a lot of ski, bike, snowshoe, foot and paw tracks on this trail.

The magenta lie is the start of the Hemlock Burn Trail singletrack.  The start of the trail is not far from the lower parking lot at Glen Alps.

Mid October 2020: Kalifornsky Beach Sand Rolling

Sand rolling!?  Wait!  What?!

Yeah.  Sand rolling.  Roller skiing on a beach using roller skis with monster-tires.

Roller skiing on a beach?  Monster-tires?  Huh?

OK, here is the story, in chronological order:

1)  20 years ago I made some monster-tire roller skis for skiing the flatter xc skiing trails, like the Mize Loop, at Kincaid Park.  I used them off and on.  Basically they were clunky … but they were entertaining and I got a good workout using them.  But then I stopped masters ski racing and focused on backcountry cross country skiing.  And my monster-tire roller skis got lost in our garage.

2)  July of 2019. I was at Kalifornsky Beach on the Kenai Penninsula.  I had a really fun time riding my mountain bike on this beach of hard-packed sand.

3)  June of 2020. I was reorganizing our garage and I found my old monster-tire roller skis.  I then remembered how much fun mountain biking on Kalifornsky Beach was the previous year.  And I wondered if these all-terrain roller skis would work on that beach.

4)  October of 2020.  I brought my monster-tire roller skis to Kalifornsky Beach.  Skiing sand on these roller skis worked out ok.  But I would rank it as a 6 out of 10.  Doable, but not high on the fun factor. Speed was a bit slow, though it seems like sand rolling would be a valid training option for ski racing.

But training for xc ski racing is not my thing these days.  So I skied on them for a while, then put them away and went beach riding on mountain bikes with Tammy, my wife.  Much more fun.  Always neat to try new stuff.  Now I can add sand rolling, or sand roller skiing, to my life’s skiing experiences.

My homemade roller skis, that I made a long time ago, that utilize off-road skateboard wheels.
Wheel size comparisons:  Off-road skateboard wheels on left.  V2 150 pneumatic wheels in center.  Solid rubber V2 98 wheels on right.

Alaska Backcountry XC Skiing