A rollicking winter tradition, the Anchorage Ski Train, will roll down the tracks to Curry in March after a one-year hiatus.
The Nordic Ski Association announced that the popular train, which quickly sells out most years, will leave for Curry on March 19. Tickets go on sale Oct. 1.
"We're thrilled the ski train is back," Diane Moxness, executive director of the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage, said. "It's an institution. We usually sell out -- so we're anticipating we will again."
The tradition dates back to the 1940s and in recent years has featured nearly 700 skiers aboard 14 passenger cars. Some party to tunes by the Alaska Blaskapelle Polka Band on the trip back to Anchorage in what some fans call a moveable polka mosh pit. Other rail cars will offer a wine-and-cheese atmosphere, "boom box" cars for music fans not keen on polka, a quiet-zone car and two family-friendly cars.
Last September, the ski train was cancelled the same week the Alaska Railroad announced 127 layoffs. Most charter trains between November and April were cancelled so the railroad could park some rail cars for the season and save money.
The move was a blow to local skiers -- and even some from outside the state who travel north for festivities.
"I don't have any doubt that the Grandview ski train was the best one-day tour in the world," local skier Kenny Powers said last year. "Nothing can compare to it anywhere for total awesomeness.
"It's not only beautiful, but you have 700 people get off a train and just disappear. It was like you were alone in the wilderness, there was so much room. It was just a wonderful, joyous day."
The cancellation put a hold on a partnership between the ski club and the Alaska Railroad that began with the 1972 ski train.
In a few weeks, ticket order forms will be available online ( www.anchoragenordicski.com ) or at the association's office at 203 W. 15th Avenue. Ticket prices are $100 for ski club members, $130 for the general public, a 10 percent price increase, Moxness said. Only ski club members can buy tickets through Nov. 7, and the train typically sells out by Thanksgiving.
"They raised the price," Moxness said of the railroad. "We don't want them to be losing their shirt on it. But we want it to be a doable price for a family, too."
The ski train first went north to Curry in 2003 and eventually supplanted the trip south to Grandview. At times, there have been avalanche concerns in the Grandview area.
Moxness said about a quarter of 670 seats sell out the first day, as avid ski train fans try to secure seats in their favorite portion of the train. Volunteers have their own car.
"People who want to make noise and have a big party, we can put them together with like-minded people," Moxness said. "But some people are not interested in that level of noise. Wine and cheese is the most popular car.
"But if you're the last people picking seats, you're going to end up where you're going to end up."
Reach reporter Mike Campbell at email@example.com or 257-4329.