Over the years, but especially this unpredictable ski season, I have been struck by how often I hear the comment, “There’s probably no snow left on the ski tracks.” True, we have seen our share of squirrelly weather this winter so far, with a fickle mix of rain, snow and whatever the weather gods can dish out except for sunshine. Even so, I always respond that it’s worthwhile heading out and checking the trails, since it’s pretty amazing how well they retain their snowpack. Indeed, the skiing has been nothing short of great this year ever since early November.
Skiing down the Montana Creek trail
Today that dictum was reinforced again, as I left downtown under torrents of horizontal rain with some trepidation to head out skiing. I knew my chances of encountering snowflakes instead of raindrops were pretty good if I headed up to Eaglecrest, where the Lower Loop is around 1100′ above sea level. And I also knew the campground loop would be immaculately groomed, since the JNSC volunteer groomers are always on top of those trails whenever they need a touch-up. I also seriously considered the Eagle Beach campground trails, which I’d read on the JNSC website’s Trail Conditions Forum were just expanded a couple of days ago to the east side of the highway, around the Methodist Camp, but I wasn’t too sure what shape the highways would be in for the drive out there. At the urging of my ski partner, we decided to head to Montana Creek. On the Back Loop, the rain turned to snow, and up the Montana Creek trail, we entered a gorgeous winter wonderland. What a beautiful trail and a pleasant outing on our classic skis!
Yesterday was similar, when I drove to the campground for skate skiing. It had been raining for a few days, with very little snow left on the ground. Temperatures had dropped below freezing, conjuring up visions of a hard and icy track. But never fear — the club’s Ginzu Groomer had churned the surface of the trail up into a soft layer of fine granular crystals, producing really fun and fast conditions.
So now I’m reflecting on the terrific variety of nordic ski options we’ve been developing in the Juneau area over the past few years. These four diverse locations, each with different conditions and terrain, and each with outstanding beauty, offer us an array of delightful choices. And when temperatures inevitably drop again and the Mendenhall Lake freezes with a thick enough layer of ice, we can add that fifth unique location where we can ski under the face of a glacier and the surrounding craggy peaks.
Hoar frost night skiing at Montana Creek
We’re pretty darned lucky here! Well, it’s more than just luck — it also takes some hard work by a dedicated set of volunteers as well as professionals to keep the various trails in such good shape in spite of the variable weather we live with.
This is an excellent time to segue to thanking many of you who have already sent in your memberships to JNSC. Your donations are what make it possible to run our groomers and to keep our equipment in good operating condition. For the rest of you, here’s a gentle reminder that it’s time to step up. A mere 25 bucks is all it takes to become a full-fledged member of our glorious club for an entire ski season (or 10 bucks for youth: click on “Become a Member” on our jnski.org website, and take it from there!). And while you’re at it, please spread the word about the excellent ski conditions. This is one secret it doesn’t pay to keep!