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For Alaska winter sports fans, still plenty of snow left in May

Craig Medred
Put those fishing poles away. There's still good skiing and snowmachining in several areas of Alaska's Kenai Peninsula and to the north. Loren Holmes photo

Good news, or maybe not, from the U.S. Forest Service. The snowmachine riding and skiing on the Kenai Peninsula still rocks. Here's how Irene Lindquist, trails technician for the Chugach National Forest carefully shared this tidbit, likely to be taken by different Alaskans in different ways: "Don't shoot me; I'm only the messenger here to tell you we still have some good skiing in various locations in the Seward Ranger District."

Most years, people would be starting to think about fishing by early May. After all, the late Les Anderson landed his world-record king salmon on the Kenai River on May 17. That was in 1985, a year that was a bit warmer. This May, much of the Kenai remains a winter wonderland as Alaska eases into the fifth month of the year.

"Skate skiing is good at Trail River campground, and Mile 12 Divide and the Old Sterling Highway," Lindquist reported. "Classic skiing is good from Nash Road (near Seward) to the Bear Lake subdivision access for the Iditarod National Historic Trail."

Some of the Iditarod itself is also good for skiing. Isn't that what you've always wanted to do? Ski the Iditarod in May?

Well, you could go snowmachining instead. The motorized season has been extended through at least this weekend, but the snow is starting to rot -- a possibly sign of spring -- in places.

"It will be tough to find much good riding," Lindquist warned. "Access to Lost Lake from the Lost Lake and Primrose trail heads is extremely icy. If you don't have studded tracks, you will not want to travel on either of these."

Turnagain Pass also remains open to snowmachining. “We do have warmer and wetter weather moving in for the beginning of May,” according to the report issued by the Chugach National Forest Glacier Ranger District. “The snowpack may be old and tired. However, it is still mostly dry snow and will undergo its transition to a summer snowpack at some point soon.”

Interestingly, the rangers of the Chugach National Forest Glacier Ranger District described this winter at Turnagain Pass as “feast or famine.”  All together, 322 inches of snow fell. Last winter, which featured snow records in Anchorage and other parts of Alaska, saw just 63 inches more. And 79 percent of this winter’s snow in Turnagain Pass fell in a narrow window between Christmas Eve and Feb. 28.

Farther to the north, winter was still rolling. It was reportedly snowing nicely at Cantwell, about 200 miles north of Anchorage along the George Parks Highway, on Friday.

Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com