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Sue's Scoop: filling in for Hans this month, Sue has the scoop!

posted Feb 17, 2015, 9:38 AM by Mat-Su Ski Club   [ updated Feb 17, 2015, 9:41 AM ]

A lot has been happening in the Mat-Su Valley ski community this month. By the time you read this, the ski club will have gained at least one new member. Your usual correspondent has turned over this month’s writing duties to me while he and his wife bring their first child into the world. Only four more years and board member Hans Hill will be able to enroll little Bjorn (great skier name, huh ?!) in Junior Nordic! 

Speaking of Junior Nordic, the Mat-Su Ski Club has over 300 youth in the program this year.  Current weekday Junior Nordic sessions will continue until March 5th, weather permitting. Many of the groups have transitioned from classical to skate skiing and the kids are going great! The end of the year JN potluck party will be held on Saturday, March 21 at GPRA. Parents will be able to return rental equipment at that time. A great many volunteers and parent sweeps deserve a big thank you for all they do. They commit to being outside skiing with the kids twice a week and are very much appreciated.

February saw many events on the trails at the Government Peak Recreation Area. On the first day of the month, 104 women, sporting colorful tutus, or dressed as tacos, moose, mermaids, something that might have been magic markers, and even the abominable snowwoman, converged on the trails for the Second Annual Ski for Women. The event raised $1980 for Alaska Family Services, a Valley organization that helps local families in crisis. While smaller than the like named event in the big city south of here, this event exudes just as much spirit as the larger women’s ski. Attendance at this year’s event drew more than twice as many participants as the first year.  A great day of fun was had by all and many thanks to all the volunteers who made it happen, especially Rebecca Buchanan, Tracy Houser and Mary Ann Holmquist, who took the lead to organize the event. Of course having great sponsors like Mat Su Health Foundation and our local businesses is very much appreciated too.

On February 7, five days after the groundhog predicted six more weeks of winter ( six more weeks for a chance that snow may arrive?), high school racers headed north to Su-Valley High School for the borough championships. Skiers from Wasilla, Palmer, Colony, Su Valley and Valdez came together for a one day event. While winds in the lower valley gusted to 70 mph and broke at least one garage door and car windshield, the trails up the road at Su Valley provided a more protected venue for the event.  Colony High won both the boys and girls events, and Valdez placed second. Then the next weekend, February 13 - 14, Colony hosted the Region III Championships at GPRA, despite rising temperatures and freezing rain leading up to the event.  Kenai boys and girls teams won the event, with Colony boys and girls placing highest among the valley teams. Colony boys, led by Tracen Knopp, placed second behind Kenai, and Colony girls, led by Greta Jenkins,  placed third behind Kenai and Soldotna. A smattering of snow moved through the area during the week before, though not quite enough to cover up all the birch seeds. But we all know that the groomers can work real magic with just a few inches of the white stuff.  Goodness knows they have had many challenges with the low level of precipitation this winter.

This month’s Groomer of the Month is Ashley Wise. Ashley started out as a volunteer on call groomer last year for the Moose Range trails but because of poor snow conditions had little to do. This year Ashley has groomed the Independence Mine Trails and is the regular groomer at Archangel Road. Ashley was born in Tuxedo Park, New York and has lived in Houston, Texas and London England when he was young. He earned a degree in Archeology from the University of Arizona-Tucson. Ashley loves the outdoors, teaching outdoor Education at the University of North Carolina- Greensboro and with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) at several sites. He is currently the program director for NOLS-Alaska and the Winter Caretaker for the NOLS Base on Farm Loop Rd. He is married to Melisse and they have a one year old son, Porter. They enjoy getting into the backcountry on skis and make good use of one of the Mat-Su Ski Club loaner “chariots”.
Ashley believes that it is important to give back to the community and by helping groom ski trails for the public to ski on he can also enjoy the solitude of back country. Ashley also likes the feel of the super wide track snowmachines and the night sky and mountains at the far end of Archangel Road. Thanks Ashley for the corduroy!

On March 14 -15, right about the time you read this, club members will be enjoying an overnight ski excursion to the Serenity Falls cabin at the end of the Eklutna Lake Road. This is an annual trip, weather permitting that began as an adventure for Colony High skiers and their two coaches (Ed Strabel and I) over 10 years ago. Today, all the bugs have been worked out, and the trip is a fabulous weekend for the 13 or 14  people lucky enough to get it on the deal. On that first trip, things were well planned out for logistics and grooming, except for the foot of snow that fell just before we set out. Ed planned to groom trail ahead of the skiers all the way out to the cabin, while pulling a sled with sleeping bags, food, cooking tools and all of the rest of our gear. But the deep snow proved too much for the snowmachine and it became more of a trailblazing exercise. By the time all fourteen skiers reached the cabin, most were wet from falling snow, tired from slogging through 12 or 13 miles of deep snow, and one had broken a ski. But everyone was in good spirits and set about hanging various items of clothing above the stove to dry. Some dried their clothes while wearing them, and a few of them were reminded  why we don’t put ski clothes in the drier. My old XC ski pants got a little shiny and crusty when the nylon melted and cooled. I have new SWIX pants now, and I do not get so close to the fire anymore.   After that first year’s thirteen mile ski, wrestling the snowmachine back on the trail a few times after getting stuck in the deep stuff, building snow caves and retracing the last mile of trail in the dark, looking for that one sleeping bag that rolled off the gear sled, all one really wants is a hot meal and a dip in the hot springs. Guess which one I actually got?  The hard to find hot springs still beckon new adventurers who reach the Serenity Falls cabin. It is not on the map, so you might have to ask your host how to find it. If you want to be part of this grand vacation weekend and you are reading this before March 14, check our website (www.matsuski.org); there just might be a slot left for you. Dinner and breakfast are communal meals and all pitch in to make it a grand time. Bring your own snacks and water for skiing in and back out, and bring a talent to share. Rental of the cabin is about $15 per person.

Adult lessons are about at an end, but there is still time to ski. Archangel road is typically skiable into April, and we still have the Race to the Outhouse number two coming up. Check out the website for dates and details. There may be a citizen’s race March 21 at GPRA if the snow holds out. If not, get a fat tire bike and check out the four miles of single track built by the Valley Mountain Bikers and Hikers last summer.

All of us who live and ski in the valley love to show off our new chalet and trails that the whole community has taken part in developing. It is a great place for all levels of skiers, as well as hikers, bikers, snowshoe enthusiasts, and even equestrians in designated areas. An exciting piece of news shared at the board meeting in February was a $2500 Executive Director’s grant the club received from Mat-Su Health Foundation, a generous supporter of our club. And you may have already heard about the $200,000 Rasmuson grant awarded to the borough to upgrade the building’s kitchen facility and do some safety upgrades, with perhaps some left to start the lighting of the trails project. Our club is attracting interest from far and wide, and the popularity of the GPRA facility and trails with users from all over Alaska only adds to our success. We hope to keep this positive feedback loop going.  The borough is supportive in our quest to light the trails, plans have been drawn and now it is a matter of securing funding to do all of the work.

Come up and see for yourself: great trails, great grooming and spectacular views. Head up the Glenn Highway from Anchorage through Palmer, turn left at Palmer Fishhook and drive about seven miles to Edgerton Parks Road. Take a left, drive about one mile until you see the big brown sign directing you up the road on your right to the chalet.

By Sue Skvorc