Trail FAQs

Which trails do the NSAA groom for skiing?
Kincaid Park, Hillside Trails, parts of the Tour of Anchorage Trail, APU, Bartlett, Beach Lake and wherever the high school teams race on any given weekend in Anchorage and Eagle River.
Which trails do the Municipality groom and maintain?
The Coastal Trail and Russian Jack Park.
Why doesn’t NSAA groom the Coastal Trail?
Historically NSAA has groomed only cross country ski trails and the Coastal Trail is a multi-use trail. NSAA grooming has been extended to the Tour of Anchorage trail and the multi-use trails along Abbott Road in order to meet the diverse needs of users. Details of grooming the Coastal Trail have not been worked out with the Municipality.
Why doesn’t NSAA groom Russian Jack except for races?
NSAA is unable to extend its grooming efforts without more funding.
Why are some trails so wide?
Some trails are wide because they are old roads. Other trails have been widened in response to the increased number of skiers, to accommodate the diverse skill level and style of skiing, and to enable grooming with very little snow. Some trails have been modified slightly for safety reasons.
What does a snowcat (or a Pisten Bully) cost?
New snowcats (Pisten Bully is a brand name) can cost $150,000. Used snowcats sometimes are available for $80,000. New tracks for a snowcat cost $17,500. Snowcats come in all widths; NSAA’s Pisten Bullys have been purchased to meet the user need in Anchorage for the trails we have. Parts and maintenance (not counting labor) can cost $8,000 per year.
Who maintains the snowcats?
Some of the NSAA groomers are skilled mechanics who spend a majority of their time tuning, repairing, modifying and maintaining the equipment in the Operations Bunker located at Kincaid.
How long after it snows does grooming start?
In the fall, grooming has to wait until the snow freezes to the ground. Without this base established, the snow just slides off the trail. At other times of the year, there are many factors which affect grooming such as the volume of the snow, the air temperature, the snow temperature, the amount of moisture in the snow, etc. Sometimes grooming occurs while it is snowing during the day to be ready for the most immediate users --- generally the folks who ski after work, and Junior Nordic in the early evening. Otherwise grooming is mostly done after dark on unlighted trails, and after 11 pm on lighted trails. If you see the snowcats in the evening on lighted trails, it is usually because they are traveling to unlighted portions to groom.
What are the best ways to ruin cross country ski trails in the winter?
FOOTPRINTS – whether they are dog paws, horse’s hooves, or people’s feet.Skiing on the trails when they are wet, soft and/or rainy.Skiing on the trails when they are soft and haven’t been groomed and packed.Skiing on the trails during the process of grooming. The groomers make multiple passes over the same trail to get it just right, and skiers can’t know when the last time might be. The snow needs time to “set up and freeze.” (Plus, the safety of skiers following or preceding snowcats is of huge concern to groomers!)Big groups of skiers making abrupt turns and stops without filling in holes.Skiers who make unnecessary and radical moves (like hockey stops). Fecal matter! Even multi-use trails should never have dog and horse poop. Don’t moose leave fecal matter and footprints?? They certainly do, but they don’t have human owners!
Why can’t NSAA groom trails the old fashioned way, with just a snowmachine and a drag and a couple of volunteers?
NSAA can’t afford it! The skill level needed to use the equipment requires 40-80 supervised hours in a snowcat before it is economically feasible to put that groomer out on his/her own. Supervision means two employees doing the work of one and sometimes re-doing the work. Anchorage skiers tend to be rather impatient. In addition: most grooming is done late at night when it is tough to find volunteers; there is too much to be done solely by volunteers; the expectations of Anchorage skiers are too high to rely on volunteer labor. Insurance is certainly a factor as well. State law prohibits paid employees from volunteering for jobs they are paid for.
Who pays for the lighting on the trails?
The Municipality pays the electric bills and maintains the lights. Lights on the Kincaid and Hillside trails have been installed by NSAA staff and volunteers and funded by contributions from the skiing community.
The Municipality owns the trails; why can’t I walk my dog or go running on them in the winter as well as other times of the year?
The Municipality has designated some trails as cross country ski only trails in the winter and NSAA grooms them primarily through the voluntary donations of cross country skiers. Basically ski trails are to ski on in the winter, and everyone else gets to use them the rest of the year! The trails would not be groomed if not for the skiers who financially support NSAA and who expect the designated trails to be ski trails. There are many parks and woods and multi-use trails available in Anchorage other than the designated cross country ski trails. Footprints leave divots that freeze into holes which catch ski tips. Walkers with or without dogs on ski trails put themselves in a dangerous position. Dogs, leashed or not, behave erratically. Dog poop makes a mess of the trails for all users. There are now dog parks for dogs, just as there are ski trails for skiers, dog mushing trails for mushers, horse trails for horseback riders, and multi-use trails that everyone uses.
What about the work done on the Hillside trails in summer, 2004?
NSAA formed a partnership with the Municipality and the National Park Service and BLM to upgrade parts of the Tour of Anchorage trail to a four-season trail by hardening the surface with gravel to make the trail durable during break-up and the fall rains; to correct the drainage problems (the widening due to folks going around mudholes); and to improve the cross sectional grade for ease of snow grooming.
Why are some Hillside trails wide?
Hillside trails are heavily used. In the winter there are numerous groups who ski the trails in groups. Some trails, like Homestead and Viewpoint, are old ditch style roads. The Gasline is a 60’ Enstar Gas right of way which the community is allowed to maintain instead of having them clear the entire 60’ width. In the summer of 2003, the Richter Loop was widened slightly in a few areas to allow ski grooming when there is very little snow cover. The Tour of Anchorage has over 1500 skiers every year on the Tour trail; presumably, the skiers who ski the 40k and 50k ski the trail a few times before they race it! Junior Nordic has 500 skiers a season spread over Kincaid, Hillside, and Russian Jack.
Why can’t the Hillside trails be covered in grass like the trails at Kincaid?
The terrain is significantly different, with more rocky soil at Hillside and sandy soil at Kincaid. Also, there is much more traffic on the Hillside trails. Grass has been planted at both Hillside and Kincaid; it grows better at Kincaid! NSAA can plant grass, but it can’t always make it grow……… It isn’t being planted on topsoil, but on whatever is there. Arlene’s Way (part of the Ski for Women trail) at Kincaid is a relatively new trail, but it looked pretty ugly the first year or so. One can hardly tell now that it wasn’t always a nice trail.
What can hikers and bikers do to help the trails in the summer?
Don’t “ride the rut!” Don’t even walk the rut. The narrow rut in the middle of the trail which is created by everyone following the same bike path becomes a ditch for water and mud and eventually ruins the entire trail. Ruts are better if they are on either edge of the trail. It would be better if everyone spread out over the trail. Grassy trails are periodically mowed during the summer, but not every week like your lawn!


Contact NSAA