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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Places to Cross Country Ski

Kodiak’s XC Ski Trails

Trails named in pink
Ski areas named in blue

The basic areas to go XC skiing in Kodiak are as follows:

Lake Gertrude in Abercrombie State Park
This is a very convenient place to go after work, and it is often the only nearby protected place to go when it is very windy. Park at the State Park parking area near the ranger station and walk down to the lake. The lake is pretty safe, but often melts out from shore at the seaward end. Generally good from December through March.

Island Lake
Another convenient place to go after work – even after dark. It is a 3K loop all the way around the outside of the lake. Watch out for the inlet and bad ice on the far left shore (if you are getting on the ice by the Boy Scout lodge). The downside of Island Lake is getting barked at by dogs, and competing with the ATVs and snowmobiles. Generally good from December well into April.

Lilly Pad, Potato Patch and Mission Lakes
These are other small, convenient lakes to go to around town.

Swampy Acres and Lake Catherine
An excellent area to ski where it often snows when it is raining in town. Take the first right in the USGC housing area after Boy Scout Lake and park just past Lake Catherine (on your right) at the yellow gate. There are numerous old military roads to follow in here and Lake Catherine is often a good place to skate ski – and no competing with ATVs or snowmachines. I like to classic ski on the old military roads immediately after a snow before the trails get tracked up by snowshoers and hikers. They eventually turn to packed ice. Generally good from December to the beginning of April.

Buskin Lake and Upper River
I think this is my favorite place to ski – usually us cross country skiers have it to ourselves and our tracks last a while. I usually park at the outlet to the lake and ski across the lake to the river and old military roads up above the lake. But you can also access this area from the road past the golf course. If you ski way up the upper river you can ski into a pretty cool canyon, and if you are really gung ho and on skate skiis you can continue all the way to Elbow Creek. Generally good from December well into April.

Golf Course
A good place to go when there is not a lot of snow. Stay off of the greens! Generally good from November to Early April.

Crossfox Lakes
Another place where it is good to go very early in the season. These lakes are shallow at a bit of elevation, and freeze earliest of all - I often ski here in October. Park at the switchbacks and hike up the old military road about 35 minutes to reach the lakes. Generally good from October into May (I’ve seen that the lakes are still frozen into May from the top of Pyramid, but I’ve only skied here in October and November.

Ski Chalet
This is a good place to go early and late in the season when there is no snow down low. If I am feeling vigorous I often go on a skate ski tour up over the ridge and into the valley that leads up to Easter Sunday. I did this tour last May 12th! Generally good November until Early May.

Red Cloud River Area
This area holds snow really well. There will be no snow in town but 3 feet out there at sea level. I like to park at the Red Cloud bridge and then explore all around. If it has been really cold and dry you can often ski up the river and even the canyon I’ve marked as the Green Grotto. Both are beautiful. Most frequently I simply ski to the sea and back for a nice tour. Generally good from January well into April.

Burma Road
Park on the left by the yellow gate just past the first Buskin River bridge on the way to the golf course. A nice long tour up into the mountains, but is often rutted out by ATVs. I like to turn back when I get to the overlook over Bells Flats. Generally good December into April.

Top of Old Womens Mountain
The top of Old Womens is relatively flat and is a good place to go classic skiing when we’ve lost all our snow down low. And it has a long history of cross country skiing too – this is where the US military trained their ‘winter’ troops at XC skiing during WWII. Generally good from late November into May.

Jack Lakes Area behind Bells Flats
These lakes are shallow and among the first to freeze in the Fall – so this is often a good place to go ice skating or skate skiing when none of the other lakes in town are safe. Generally good from November through April.

Russian River Gorge
If it has been cold and dry for a few weeks this is one of the best river gorges to ski up. It goes for miles and is very pretty. Sometimes on the way back I leave the canyon and ski back via the Jack Lakes area. Generally good from January through March.

Salonie Creek and Gorge
Salonie Creek is often the first river that is good for skiing – the upper river is generally dry and not flowing unless it is flooding. So if we got enough snow to cover the rocks – then this one is usually good to go. There is an awesome ice fall way up in the canyon if you are feeling intrepid. I park at the entrance to the rifle range, ski in the road to the rifle range and then get on the river flats. Generally good December into early April.

Heitman Lake
I like to go to Heitman Lake in the late spring when all the lakes lower down are melted out. One parks at the pull off about ¼ mile before the Cliff Point turn off and it is about a 40 minute hike up to the lake. In April bring snow shoes because the snow is often deep up by the lake even if there is no snow at the road. When I am feeling intrepid I do not stop at the lake but keep on going along the ridge way back in the backcountry. In April I have had some awesome skate ski crust cruises on this ridge. Generally good December into May.

American River
Another classic river tour. Park at the parking area by the road and ski about a mile or 2 along the Saltery Cove road before you get on the river. No flowing water – so just need the snow to ski. The first 2 miles are often pretty bad with little snow and ATV ruts but the upper river and canyon at the head are well worth it. This is the longest river tour on the roadsystem.

Chiniak and Pasagshak – Rose Tead Lake, Sacremento River Valley, Roslyn Creek, Logging Roads, Chiniak Lagoon
I’ve had great skate skiing on Rose Tead Lake and even went to the Sacremento River Valley once. But generally it is too long of a drive to get out to these places. I have never skied out in the Chiniak area but have always wanted to try skiing up the logging roads or Roslyn Creek. I went out this way one in mid April and was surprised at how much snow they still had in the woods.

High Mountain Flats – Flats below Cope Mountain, Flats above Salonie, Heitman Ridge, Center Mountain Ridge
These are the places I used to go early in the fall when I was training for ski marathons. They are also great places to go in the LATE spring or when we have had a super warm winter. But they are also a lot of work to get to – you generally have to hike at least 45 minutes to climb up to where you can put your skiis on. Generally good November thru June. I once skate skied from the Cope Mountain area way back into the mountains towards center on the 4rth of July.


Rachel said...

Awesome list of places to ski in Kodiak. I hope to check them out some day. I skied with you a bit during the Tour of Anchorage last year...hope to see you on the trails again this winter in ANC.

Meghan said...

We needed this guide last year!

Zoya said...

Rachel - I hope to see you again during the Tour. Will you do the 50K? I think I will, but it depends on how our snow holds up. I want to be in shape for the race!

And Meghan - the XC ski guide will be even better when you come back! ;-) Patrick