Heading into late January of an unseasonably warm winter, a handful of tickets remained Thursday morning for the Ski Train sponsored by the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage, a wildly popular trip in past years.
Not many, mind you -- just four.
Still, this is an event that in past years has sold out by November, weeks after tickets went on sale.
"We aren't sure why we haven't sold out exactly, like in past years," NSAA Business Manager Erin Beam said in an email. "Low snow here in Anchorage might be a reason, although Curry has proven time and time again to have plenty of snow because of its location."
Since 2003, the train been going north to Curry, which was one of the few places in Southcentral with snow in March last year. Curry replaced a trip south to Grandview near Spencer Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula, a destination that occasionally posed avalanche concerns.
The train hauls nearly 700 skiers, snowshoers and partiers out of town for a day of fun in the backcountry. Skiers who buy tickets early can pick their rail car. In addition to a polka band that brings music to some cars, there are family-friendly cars, a wine-and-cheese car, a car with a DJ and a quiet zone.
The nordic association and Alaska Railroad have been discussing new destinations, perhaps for trips as early as next year.
"Possibly Spencer Glacier," Beam said. "Maybe offering different terrain might be more appealing to those who have gone to Curry several times. New terrain may draw new participants, too."
Tickets cost $135 for association members and nonmembers pay $170. That's a $5 increase from last year for members, $10 for nonmembers.
The price has changed over the years -- tickets for the first ski train in 1972 cost $5. But back then, expenses were far cheaper, too. Chartering the train cost $3,000 back then. Today, according to NSAA, it's $65,000, and about 70 percent of ticket revenues go towards paying that fee.
The ski train is NSAA's top fundraiser except for memberships, which start at $85 for single skiers who want a trail pin and $170 for families.
Contact Mike Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org