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History of Trail Development and Other Facilities

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Introduction to the History of Trail Development in Anchorage:

One of the goals of the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage (Nordic Ski Club) is to help provide the best cross country skiing opportunities that we can for all the people of Anchorage and Alaska.  To that end we help design, construct, and maintain ski trails and we have been doing that for the past 35 years in the Anchorage area.

From a historic point of view folks have probably been cross country skiing in Alaska longer than any of us can remember. We do know that activities of the Nordic Ski Club of Anchorage began in the early 60's.  During those years skiers at East High School used trails which they built in Russian Jack Park which at that time housed a prison farm, the Animal shelter and a potato field as well as the beginnings of a camper park.  Skiers at West used trails made from the Faulkner's front yard through the Atwood Golf course.  Big races were held at Moose Run with the cooperation of the military through the US Biathlon Unit.  When Dimond HS was built in the mid 60's coaches and parents built trails near the school but had to abandon those trails to subdivision development by the early 70's.  At that time skiers began to use existing trails, fence lines and roads at Kincaid Park.  Volunteers established the original 15km of new cross country ski trails at Kincaid during the summers of the early 70's. 

At the same time parents were working with the Borough Parks Department to secure use of land adjacent to the new Service HS complex to establish ski trails for the use of the ski team and community near the school. 

When Bartlett HS opened in the mid 70's, once again, parent and club volunteers as well as ski team members designed and built the trails for use by the ski team and community.  No public funds were expended on the development of any of the original trails - public lands were used for the location of the trails.

A pattern developed over the years which still exists today.  Architects design a school, they plan a gym, track, football stadium with lights, and the parents and ski club are left to plan and build the ski trails which are used by the community and the school for cross country running and skiing classes and competitive teams.

Lighting of trails began in the late 60's at Russian Jack with the donation of surplus lights from the city and installation by volunteers.  The next lighted trail was established at Bartlett and built after a Ski for Lights fund raising event.  The original lighted trails at Hillside and Kincaid were built as a result of park bond and park budget dollars.  Subsequent lights at Hillside and Kincaid have been added to the system through the efforts of private individuals and group fund raising events.

Trail construction and trail maintenance have evolved from cutting with hand tools and packing with snowshoes to sophisticated design, construction, surveying, and grooming with equipment similar to that used on alpine ski slopes.   Winter trail grooming prior to 1976 was all voluntary.  From 1976 to 1983 the city funded a contract put out to bid for a private contractor to groom ski trails.  With the passage of Proposition 23-tax cap in 1983, that funding was eliminated and cross country skiers began the voluntary donation system which pays for the majority of ski trail maintenance today.  Since 1984 the city maintenance departments have groomed the cross country ski trails at Russian Jack Park and also along some of the multi use paved bike trails.  All other cross country ski trail grooming is funded through voluntary donations by the skiers themselves.  The school district does pay for grooming for the junior and senior high school races through a contract with the ski association.

Just for the record, private time, labor, and dollars have been responsible for the construction of the following cross country ski facilities:

  • 9/10 of the Kincaid Trails
  • 1/2 of the Kincaid Lights
  • 9/10 of the ski trails at Hillside
  • 1/3 of the lights at Hillside
  • The Tour of Anchorage Trail through Bicentennial Park
  • 4 Bridges on ski trails in Bicentennial Park
  • The complete Bartlett Trail System
  • The lights at Bartlett
  • 1 km of lights at Russian Jack
  • 3 km of ski trail at Russian Jack
  • All of the trails at APU/UAA
  • The Timing Building at Kincaid
  • The Biathlon Range at Kincaid
  • The city/public funds have paid for specific cross country ski trail facilities for the following:
  • 2/3 of the lights at Hillside
  • 1/10 of the trails at Hillside
  • 1/2 of the lights at Kincaid
  • 1/10 of the trails at Kincaid
  • The Kincaid Outdoor Center
  • Russian Jack building

Some multiuse trails which skiers share with runners, ski jourers and horseback riders in the winter

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