The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Irene Lindquist
Seward Ranger District 

Snowfall, ice helping turn area into playground


December 8, 2016 | View PDF

It's a Winter Fairyland in the Seward Ranger District with just enough snowfall to mess with ice skating on some lakes but not enough to open to motorized use, and yet there's barely enough snow to allow for skate skiing in some areas but where it does, it's great due to the grooming Dave Story has done at Russian River C.G. (RRCG) and Jason Aigeldinger at Trail River C.G. (TRCG).

Classic and skate skiing on Herman Leirer Road (Exit Glacier); TRCG; and RRCG roads is good. Currently, there is 2-4 inches of light snow on an ice layer at Herman Leirer Road making for a little harder skate skiing. It will get better as folks get out and pack it down. TRCG and RRCG have been groomed. It's amazing what a groomer can do, and yes, there are rumors of gravel at TRCG. I took my brand new skate skis to TRCG and had no problems with gravel or getting down to gravel, though I did toss about 10 small rocks off the road.

Resurrection Pass Trail South is bikeable to Swan Lake, as frozen prints and ruts are covered in snow. Pulling a pulk from the South to the North is good. Resurrection Pass Trail North is bikeable to just beyond Caribou Creek Cabin and skiable from just beyond through the pass.

Ice thickness on the following lakes is as follows:

Grouse Lake: 6 ¾" of ice beneath 2" of snow, the ice is smooth and easy to skate through the snow.

Summit Lake: 8" beneath 2" of snow, the ice is smooth and easy to skate through the snow.

Tern Lake: 9" beneath 3" of snow.

Lower Trail: 6" beneath 2.5" of snow.

Upper Trail: 5 to 6" beneath 3.5" of snow 200 feet north of the Ball Diamond.

Cooper, Crescent, and Grant Lakes are not frozen.

The following is an update on Recreational Activities for Glacier Ranger District:

Ranger Tim says XC ski on campground road at Williwaw Campground was good this past weekend with maybe a few inches of snow on the ground. There is a snow berm blocking access to driving into the campground and gate should be (if not) pulled shut.

More information on this location: this fresh snow fell a few times in dusting type amounts over the last week or two, surface hoar has been forming on top of this snow, as well. Looks like winter fat tire biking is popular at many parts along the Trail of Blue Ice. Ice is forming in/on wetland areas (as long as temperatures stay below freezing), Explorer Pond (not sure on thickness) but was covered in ice and smooth and most likely skateable as well as probably parts of Alder Pond wetlands and the like.

The Portage area has been below freezing (for the most part, minus a few hours here and there where it got up to 35 degrees) for a week now. How about ice on Portage lake you ask? In the past, it has taken up to two solid weeks of below freezing weather for ice to start to form. You can pay attention to temperature/weather/camera at FAA webcam on top of BBVC (Begich-Boggs Visitor Center) has three views from the rooftop. This is at on the webcam named Portage Glacier. For reference in above paragraph with brochure map below: 2 is Alder Pond, 3 is Explorer pond, Trail of Blue Ice is labeled on map, and 7 is Williwaw Campground.

Why isn't the Seward Ranger District open to Winter Motorized Use and when will we open? As of Dec. 6, we're full on into winter. We're waiting for snow, snow, snow, and snow! Snowpack is too shallow on our trails. We need more snow, snow, snow, and more snow, snow, snow!

Here are a few considerations we look at to determine when we open trails/areas to Winter Motorized Use.

On SRD, conditions are assessed to make our recommendations on when it is appropriate to use snow machines on and off our trails. We regularly monitor these access points to monitor conditions: Lost Lake TH, Snow River at Mile 13, Primrose TH, Johnson South TH and Upper Trail Lake, Carter Lake TH, Summit Lake, Palmer Creek RD, Bean Creek TH, Resurrection Pass TH's (N&S), (though it's not open to motorized other than subsistence this winter season), and Snug Harbor Road.

Folks often ask about the amount of snow necessary to open to motorized use, we can't give them a measurement as there are other factors than snow depth to make a decision and it is better assessed by the ground conditions (frozen or not), density of snow (dry or wet), and anticipated weather (cooling or warming, more snow or not, rain). What we are looking for is frozen ground, snow sufficient to pack on the trail and cover most ground vegetation so traffic will not wear the snow cover away or blow it off the trail and expose dirt for long stretches. This may be 8 inches of heavy snow on frozen ground or 20 inches of dryer snow. But again, and particularly on trails, it is not the depth of snow but its consistency, the condition of the ground beneath it, and anticipated weather over the next several days. We have a couple areas that are so close to being open but we just need a little more snow.


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