Warm weather means shorter Tour of Anchorage ski race

Mike Nesper
Marc Lester

Carl Evans was shocked Friday afternoon when he picked up his bib for the Tour of Anchorage. The 50-kilometer race he signed up for had been cut in half.

Sunday's Tour of Anchorage course will be shortened this year due to poor trail conditions. The decision to reduce the annual event to 19 kilometers and 26 kilometers -- down from 25, 40 and 50 kilometers -- was made Friday after groomers reported melting and standing water at Kincaid Park, according to Anne Gore, executive director of the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage.

The decision disappointed Evans, who had trained for a much longer race.

"I'm bummed," he said. "I want it to be the whole thing."

Skiers will start at Service High and finish at Alaska Pacific University. The altered course eliminates Kincaid and the Coastal Trail.

The rerouted course has decent snow coverage, Gore said.

"We are utilizing the trails that are still in good shape," she said.

Start times haven't changed, just race distances. All of those who signed up for the 40-K and 50-K races will ski the 26-kilometer course, which will include the Spencer Loop. The 25-K skiers will follow the 19-kilometer course, which does not include the Spencer Loop.

There is one exception. Skiers who signed up for the 40-K can do the 19-K if they don't want to ski the Spencer Loop. Gore said many skiers sign up for the 40-K instead of the 50-K so they won't have to ski the loop, which is largely considered the most difficult portion of the race. Skiers can decide on race day what course they'll ski, Gore said.

As of Friday, both classic and freestyle races are planned, Gore said.

Evans expects a fast race for the 50-K (now 26-K) participants, who go out first Sunday.

"I did Spencer's earlier today. It was rocket-ship fast," he said.

Though APU's finish line won't have the timing building that Kincaid does, Gore is confident timing won't be an issue.

"Our timers are really experienced," she said.

The Tour has only been canceled once in 28 years, Gore said. Though the shortened courses aren't ideal, an altered race is better than nothing, she said.

"We can't control the weather," Gore said. "We just do the best we can to adapt."

As of Friday, about 1,350 people were signed up, Gore said, a little higher than the race average of 1,200. She attributed the increase to the race being part of the U.S. National Masters Championships happening in Anchorage. The race will still count as a masters championship race, Gore said.

Skiers can register for the race Sunday. Bib pickup continues Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at APU.

For more information and an updated course map, visit www.anchoragenordicski.com.

Reach Mike Nesper at mnesper@adn.com or 257-4335.