City electricians were at Kincaid Park on Tuesday, trying to ensure that Christmas this year is both white and bright for nighttime skiers.
Lights on significant portions of three popular Kincaid trails were out earlier this week as the holiday weekend approached. Nearly three kilometers of trail on both the Mize Loop and the Margaux Menaker Memorial Trail were dark, and the entire Jodhpur Loop will be unlit until at least next spring.
Workers repaired two line breaks on the Mize lights Monday -- just in time for nordic afficionados who may find new cross-country skis under their holiday tree.
"That is by far the best-loved, most-used trail at Kincaid," said Diane Moxness, executive director of the Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage. "Everybody says Spencer Loop is the best-loved trail, but everybody skis the Mize."
Repair crews were trying to duplicate the feat Tuesday on Margaux's Loop, doing diagnostic tests to pinpoint the problem.
The dark section of Margaux's Loop included the Little Niagara hill that can be treacherous "for those of us who are wimps," Moxness said.
"There are a lot of four-legged creatures out there," she said. "You don't want to be coming around the corner in the dark."
Lights on the 2.2-mile Jodphur Loop, out since late fall, have been red-flagged as a safety measure after "the electrician working on it got a surprise," Moxness said.
Electricity to the loop was shut off. Karen Richards of the city's facility maintenance department characterized the Jodphur problem as a "very real life/safety issue (that) must be addressed before lighting will be back in operation" in a posting on the ski association's Web site.
The city electrician shocked while troubleshooting Jodphur prompted Richards' posting. Because all electrical lines along the trail run underground, nothing will be attempted until the ground thaws.
Richards suggested skiers "utilize a head lamp at the very least." Signs notifying skiers that the Jodphur lights were off were posted earlier this month.
Kincaid is getting set to host the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships early next month. Those races all take place during daylight.
All together, the park has some 70 kilometers of ski trail with about 18 kilometers lit. In 1996, lights were installed on Mize Loop, about a decade after they were added to what's now known as Margaux's Loop.
Up to four electricians have been working on Kincaid's darkened trails since last week.
"At this minute, they're doing everything they're capable of," Ben Powell, operations supervisor for the ski association said of the city's repair efforts on Tuesday.
Longtime skier Jim Burkholder, who volunteers on the Nordic Ski Association's trails committee, said the section from the stadium to the upper trail is dark.
"There's been a lot of construction over the last few years with the biathlon range and adding buried pipe for planned snow-making equipment," Burkholder said, suggesting that work may be have contributed to the problem. "Anytime you have to splice one of these electrical wires back together, you may have a water infiltration problem."
Limited daylight this time of year -- 5 hours. 28 minutes Tuesday -- can pose problems, even for race officials organizing daytime races.
The big LynxLoppet high school cross-country races in early December attracted nearly 800 young skiers to Kincaid for races starting at 1:30 p.m. To beat nightfall, "we were starting four kids every 20 seconds," Burkholder said.
Similarly, the Besh Cup sprint race on Saturday attracted 260 skiers, and the series of 1-K sprints lasted until dusk.
Although the ski association is responsible for trail grooming at Kincaid, the city maintains the lights.
"People can still ski," said John Rodda, director of the city's parks and recreation department. "On a clear moonlit night, you can ski anywhere around here."
So if the Margaux's Loop repairs take longer than expected, mark your calendar. A full moon begins Dec. 31.
Reach reporter Mike Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4329.