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Impatient skiers can find groomed trails at Hatcher Pass

Beth Bragg

Poles with big baskets are recommended, but cross-country skiers can get a jump on the season this week at Independence Mine at Hatcher Pass, where 5.3 kilometers of trail have been groomed for classic and skate skiing.

"About 15 inches of snow fell Sunday and we packed it down," said Mark Strabel, who along with his dad, Ed Strabel, does much of the grooming at Hatcher Pass for the Mat-Su Ski Club. "It's been pretty soft, but we've been working it a little more every day and it's been firming up."

Strabel said another storm is expected today or early Friday. If more snow comes, he said, the trails will be groomed again in time for weekend use. Strabel said he saw about 20 or 30 skiers Tuesday, when he was able to combine some skiing with grooming.

"It was fantastic skiing," he said. "A little foggy."

Diane Moxness of the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage said Hatcher Pass -- about 55 miles north -- is the only real place around Anchorage to ski right now.

But that doesn't mean hardy skiers aren't finding snow closer to town, and trying to ski on it.

"I do know some people are skiing at Powerline Pass with their rock skis," she said. "I don't think I'd recommend it."

Bob Sutherland, an NSAA member, reports on the Cross Country Alaska website (www.crosscountryalaska.org/trails) that skiing is minimal but available at Glen Alps, where he said there's one inch at the trail head and more as you head up Powerline.

"Powder on an icy base," he wrote Tuesday. "Took me a dozen years to ready my rock skis for today."

Meanwhile, Alyeska Ski Resort in Girdwood is preparing for a Nov. 23 opening. Already 69 inches of snow has fallen at the top of Chair 6, which has an average snow depth of 44 inches. Chairs 3 and 7 are still snow-free.

Alyeska's hiking trails have snow at the midway level, the resort reports, and caution is urged.

A couple of deadlines are coming up for Alyeska skiers: The discount for early purchase of a season pass ends on Monday, Oct. 31, which is also the last day to roll over days left on 2010-11 ski passes. For more information, call 754-2275.


By BETH BRAGG
Anchorage Daily News