No snow means no Chugach for sno-gos: The lack of early season snow has put the kibosh on snowmachine riding in the Chugach National Forest, 50 miles south of Anchorage along the Seward Highway. The Forest Service has issued emergency closures for motorized travel, including in popular Turnagain Pass. The Forest Service's Irene Lindquist reports there just isn't enough of the white stuff to permit the usual Dec. 1 opening to the season. Southcentral Alaska has been enjoying -- or enduring, depending on one's point of view -- an unusually warm and dry early winter. Lindquist said trails will open for the powered sleds as soon as there is enough snow. At the moment, most are covered by only 4-8 inches of snow. Cross-country skiing is possible on some. On others, freezing water overflown with fresh water that froze again has created glaciation that makes both skiing and hiking difficult. In many places, Lindquist suggests hiking is probably the best alternative, but she advised shoes with cleats, spikes or mini-crampons. "All trails have an ice layer on the ground topped with packed snow for a good base," she reported via email. Fat-tire biking is good on trails with a snow cover, but cyclists might want studded tires on the icier routes.
Beware on Black Friday, warn police: Anchorage police are warning Alaskans to hold their gifts close to chests in light of a study of thefts from vehicles and shoplifting between the months of January to October. According to police, the study showed a 40-percent jump in the former and a 25-percent increase in the latter over the last year. In response, the Anchorage Police Department blasted out a "Black Friday Safety Alert," with shopping tips for the whole family. The useful advice included gems like "Stay alert and be aware of what's going on around you." For example, take your eyes off that gaming console through the store's windows and introduce yourself to the dude lying on the cement next to you in line, because he could be dreaming up a way of ripping your grandson's gifts from your hands. That leads us to tip number two, "Hold purses tight to the body and carry purchases on the same arm to make it more difficult for the robber to steal." Other tips include parking in a well-lit area, not leaving valuables out where others can see them and avoid carrying large amounts of cash. The holidays do tend to bring out the best and the worst in people, so look out for one another, Alaskans. If anything seems fishy or an unfortunate strong-arm snatch-and-run does occur, call APD at 786-8900.