Friday, January 18, 2013

Winter Dreams

The heavy rains of the past week kept many Juneau residents inside. I was scheduled to teach cross country ski lessons at Eaglecrest last Saturday and Sunday, so I spent two full days skiing and it wasn't too bad. My students were eager to learn, and when I wasn't teaching I enjoyed the nicely groomed Lower Loop trail, working on both my classic and skate skiing. Scott and I made a few runs on the mountain Sunday morning, but were defeated by the low visibility and wet conditions. I'd rather beat myself to a pulp classic skiing 20 or 30 km than sit on the chairlift in the rain.

When I didn't have to be at the ski area to teach, I started thinking about the rest of this winter. We've had a great start, and I've done my fair share of training for the Tour of Anchorage in March as well as working on my teaching and skiing skills. I will continue to spend many hours on the groomed trails, rain or shine, until the Tour is over and lessons have stopped, but I must confess that I've started to dream about other places to go on my skis beyond the Lower Loop, Mendenhall Campground, and Mendenhall Lake.
A winter dream come true - new tracks in soft, fresh snow
Here is an alphabetical list of many of the places a person can go on cross country skis. Maybe some of these will fuel your own winter dreams and give you some ideas of fun places to go cross country skiing.

Dan Moller Trail —Climbs steadily up through woods and meadows to the Dan Moller Bowl, known toold-timers as 3rd Cabin, site of Juneau's first alpine ski area equipped with arope tow. Recommended for intermediate to advanced skiers, this area is a fun place to practice telemarking. The trail back down is full of whoop-de-doos. Also open to snowmachines. Experienced backcountry travelers can cross over Mt. Troy and down into Fish Creek and Eaglecrest Ski Area.

Dredge Lake Easily accessible classic skiing on almost flat trails.

Eagle Beach State ParkThis area is truly a gem, with short, easy trails for anyone to enjoy in a remote park setting and unparalleled views of the Chilkat mountains gleaming with snow across Lynn Canal. These trails are groomed on a somewhat regular basis.

Eagle River Trail —A little more challenging than skiing up the Herbert River trail, but worth the effort when you reach the Eagle Glacier cabin and lake.

How cold does it have to be to safely ski tour on the frozen Eagle River?
How about -15 F.?
Eaglecrest lower nordic loop — A 6k loop with twists, turns, uphills, and downhills, but still skiable for all levels. This trail was widened, straightened, and improved over the past couple of years, and Eaglecrest is doing an excellent job of keeping this trail groomed for skate and classic skiing.

Eaglecrest upper nordic loop — Also known as Hilda Meadows, this is a more challenging loop accessible by hiking up one of the lower Eaglecrest alpine runs (Trickster or Sneaky) or getting a ride on the Hooter chair lift (not recommended for beginners!). Not always groomed – check with Eaglecrest before heading up.

When the Upper Loop at Eaglecrest is groomed, it can be great skiing.
Herbert River Trail This popular summer hiking trail becomes an easy ski tour in the winter when the snow cover is adequate. Most fun when the river is frozen and there is good snow cover all the way up to Herbert Glacier, but skiers should be aware of the danger of possible open water and overflow.

Ski touring along the Herbert River Trail
Mendenhall Campground and Mendenhall LakeA good area to spend time with family and friends for a casual Sunday morning outing or skate ski 'til you drop! Groomed daily for skate and classic skiing by the Juneau Nordic Ski Club volunteers. Please join and support winter trail grooming. Go to for more information and for up to the minute trail grooming reports.

Peterson Creek Trail —This trail is challenging at first but then opens up into nice meadows and finally leads to the USFS Peterson Creek cabin. You can drop your overnight pack at the cabin after skiing up the trail in the morning and then spend the afternoon exploring the Auke Mountain/Spaulding meadow area in the woods andmeadows above the cabin.

Auke Mountain meadows heading down towards Peterson Lake
Spaulding Meadows —Hike up the Spaulding Trail a few miles, then put on your nordic skis and spend the day in cross country heaven with rolling meadows surrounded by mountain views. I recommend hiking up and down the trail which can be steep and narrow in spots. You can try going up the Muir Cabin trail, which branches off the Spaulding Trail about one mile up. This leads to meadows which are closer to Auke Mountain.You can make a loop by skiing out Peterson Creek trail (a very full day). Lake Creek trail is another way to access Spaulding Meadows, but this trail is maintained and used by the local snowmachine club, so be aware of motorized traffic on the trail and move out of the way of snowmachines as they pass.
Spaulding Meadows is the most beautiful place in the world to cross country ski
There are many more trails to explore and enjoy in Juneau. Keep in mind avalanche safety when you venture on the slopes. I strongly suggest that you avoid the Perseverance /Granite Creek Trail area during the winter, as well as the Sheep Creek valley area, unless you are educated and properly equipped to properly assess and deal with hazardous snow conditions.

The City and Borough of Juneau provides an Urban Avalanche Advisory can be found at  This Web site targets the Mt. Juneau urban avalanche zones but is a useful reference for general avalanche danger in the Juneau area.

Sweet dreams and safe skiing!

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