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Around the Valley

posted Jan 20, 2016, 10:15 PM by Tammy Hill

Something I have been caught saying in recent years is this; one of my favorite sightings on the trails is families.  Sure the great views and fresh snow top out my best thing of Government Peak Recreation area, but what always makes me smile is a parent or parents out with their kids.  Half the time the family are newcomers to the sport and just out enjoying what I take for granted.  As I have written before, I recently became a parent and it truly spun my perspective around, for skiing and every other worldly thing.  Having not grownup nor spent much time caring for mini-humans, things that I was completely oblivious of are now all too apparent.

“No Hans, 10 months is way too early for skis,” said my Wife.  “Well, he’s gotta ski before he can walk,” said I.  “I think you have that backwards hun….”

Originally I enjoyed seeing families getting after it on the ski trails because it was all too obvious they were having fun.  But now, beyond that reason, I appreciate it even more because I have a sliver of insight into how much effort went into their ski outing. 

Pre-kiddo my wife and I were at the trailhead inside of twenty minutes after leaving work.  Post-kiddo  we are lucky to make it out before the next full moon.  Who knew how long it takes to dress a baby in outdoors clothes?  And why can’t socks stay on their feet? 

Nevertheless, our club has prospered by being a family oriented group.  It has grown on the backs (literally) of many engaged families and our 300+ Junior Nordic skiers is proof of this concept.  

So buddle up those children and hit the trails.  It might just get me to tow this pulk around for one more lap.



Mat-Su Ski Club Board member Gene Backus is this month’s “Groomer of The Month”. Gene is 62 ski seasons young, was born in Lansing Michigan, and moved to Alaska as soon as he could when he was eight.  Gene went to school in Anchorage and graduated from Diamond High during the Nordic skiing “reign of Roumagoux”, ironically Gene didn’t Ski, and he wrestled while at Diamond.  He did have a pair of Army surplus skis that he would use for bushwhacking through the woods and he still likes to ski on narrow, winding trails through the woods.  In 1978 Gene moved to the Mat-Su Valley and later got his first light weight skis from his son, Mike who skied for Colony High School.  On these “hand-me–down”, skis, Gene found they didn’t float over the snow like the military skis and he got into grooming trails in the Mat Valley Moose Range with the late Howie Powder.  

Gene owns Alascon, a valley business that specializes in precast concrete and it allows Gene to fabricate lightweight groomers to pull behind snowmachines to flatten and groom relatively narrow ski trails.  Over the years, Gene has built about 15 of these groomers for individuals as well as the Mat-Su Ski Club.

Gene has been grooming the Moose range area trails and putting in new routes each year since 2006.  He also grooms a bushwhacker ski loop at the Government Peak Rec Area inside the Pioneer loop to give skiers a change of pace and some new scenery.

Gene’s favorite grooming machine is obvious, the Super Wide Track with his trail groomer.  He has worked especially hard to obtain matching grants from the Jessica Stevens Foundation and the State ORTAB grant program for the two Super Wide Track snow machines that groom the Moose Range.  

Gene enjoys grooming super early in the morning under a full moon when the wildlife is moving around.  Gene sees quite a few critters including a wolf trotting along the freshly groomed trail.

Gene would like to invite skiers to give the Moose Range trails a try.  No tracks, but usually wide enough to skate ski.  Check the CCAK Trails Condition Reports before you go.

Gene Backus with one of his lightweight groomers.




As some of you have notices, we have been without our weather station at GPRA.  After having to deal with some technical issues, the GPRA weather station and web cam are now back up and running.  Head on over to our website for a link and better yet, we now have an app for phones that will keep you abreast on the weather at GPRA.


January 3rd – Moonlight Ski,  Moose Range

January 15-16th  – GPRA High School Race, Volunteers Needed

February 7th – Mat-Su Ski for Women