Weather on the first day of March was more like a lamb than a lion, but winter is far from over. Just ask Snomads, a southern Kenai Peninsula organization of snowmachine enthusiasts. The club's annual Fun Run happens this weekend.
The Saturday excitement begins with event-day registration at McNeil Canyon Elementary School from 8-10 a.m.
Steve Parizek, the club's president, encouraged pre-registration, however. That can be done at Fun Run sponsors: All Seasons Honda and Peninsula Ski-Doo, Homer Saw and Cycle, Lower Peninsula Power Sports, Redden Marine (Kachemak Gear Shed) and Spenard Builders Supply.
Entry is free for snowmachiners age 15 and younger. For Snomad members older than 15, there's a $35 fee; nonmembers pay the fee plus $10 for a one-day membership.
"You must be a member to ride because of liability issues," said Parizek. "We also will have membership forms, so if you want to be a full-time member you can."
One-year Snomad memberships are individual $30, family $50 and business $75.
The Fun Run entry fee goes to support the club's efforts to groom and maintain trails, keep parking lots cleared and to legally establish trailheads.
Saturday's route officially begins at the new blue shed parking lot, also known as Caribou Lake Trailhead, and includes four checkpoints. The entire length of the course is somewhere between 20 and 25 miles.
"You don't have to go to the checkpoints, but we encourage it," said Parizek. To be clear, he added, "It's no race. This is just take-your-time leisure."
The run isn't the only fun of the day. A barbecue with burgers and hot dogs is planned at the "palace," the Snomads cabin in the hills. The hilly terrain also is perfect for sledding and snowmachines tow the sledders back to the top of the slope.
"And then, starting at 2 p.m., we'll have a drawing and raffle with prizes," said Parizek.
Being raffled off is a Marlin .45-70 lever action rifle. Raffle tickets are $10 each and three for $25. If the raffle winner doesn't want the rifle, there is the option of taking the cash, which usually totals around $500. There also is a split-the-pot that has the potential for sending someone home with a nice chunk of change in his or her pocket.
Parizek was excited about one of the club's newest members, the Homer Cycling Club.
"They joined the organization because they like riding their fat bikes on our course, which I think is cool because even though we're mostly motorized, we've got relationships with other clubs," said Parizek. "We like to encourage everyone to get out."
This has been a busy year for Snomads members researching trail names. Not only have they drawn upon old newspaper stories and maps, they also have obtained affidavits from residents with historical knowledge of trail names and locations.
"We're still looking for old maps in particular, if anyone has any, to prove trails' existence," said Parizek. "We hope to put this before the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and, if everything goes right and we get the cooperation of everybody, get some trailhead issues resolved."
Another issue being addressed by the club is the lack of public-maintained parking areas.
"There isn't one from Soldotna to the southern peninsula," said Parizek. "Every one is leased land from the state or borough and maintained by the respective clubs. That's one of the reasons we like to see participation in the fun run, because we use some of that money for snowplowing those spots."
Out-of-pocket club member expenses to keep those areas clear can total "probably $70,000 a year," said Parizek. "We do grants, which helps, but still, when you consider that's all volunteer time, that's a lot of potatoes."
For popular events like Saturday's Fun Run, cleared parking areas are critical.
"We have had as many as 250-300 snowmachiners, but this year I think we're down to 150-200," said Parizek. "Still, it's a bunch."
For more information about Snomads and Saturday's Fun Run, visit www.snomadsonline.org.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.