In our own Backyard

Story last updated at 5:03 PM on Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Friday night lights: skiing by tiki torch



By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer


 

Photo by Michael Armstrong

Skiers take to the trails on New Year's Day for the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club's Friday Night Lights on the Sunset Loop off Diamond Ridge Road.

Big city ski trails have lights that will show the way on the darkest nights. Here in Homer, while the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club might like a few lighted trails, the expense and effort can be daunting. About five years ago, trail groomer and longtime volunteer Dave Brann had an idea.

"I got to thinking about Tiki torches," Brann said.

So when Home Depot had an end-of-summer sale at a $1 each, Brann bought 100. Call it a low-tech solution. The ski club calls it Friday Night Lights — and Saturday Night Lights, too.

Friday Night Lights

Location:

Baycrest Trailhead by Alaska Department of Transportation, Sterling Highway. In case of trail conditions, may be moved to Sunset Loop Trailhead, Diamond Ridge Road

When:

6-8:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday

Fee:

$10 ski club members, $20 nonmemembers; children free.

about:

Ski or snowshoe the Baycrest Ski Trails by Tiki torchlight. Enjoy hot chocolate by a bonfire afterward.

More info:

Kachemak Nordic Ski Club, kachemaknordicski-club.org.

or 226-4659

On the first weekend of the New Year, Jan. 6 and 7, the Nordic ski club brings back the popular event. From 6 to 8:30 p.m. on the Baycrest Ski Trails, a torch light loop will offer skiers and snowshoers of all ages and abilities a chance to enjoy some night time skiing. Headlights are recommended, but with a full moon that weekend and the torches along the path, there should be plenty of light to ski by.

One year, the Nordic ski club did Full Moon Fridays every month, even when the moon was dim. Another year they had Friday Night Lights once a month. Now it's an annual January event that has proven popular.

"We found we had as many people coming one weekend as spread over four weekends," Brann said.

Meet at the Baycrest trailhead by the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities off the Sterling Highway. While the trails have about eight inches of snow, the trailhead was looking pretty thin recently and the optional venue is at the Sunset Loop trailhead on Diamond Ridge Road next to the Alascom towers. Dogs are OK on the lower trails, but not on the Sunset Loop. A warming bonfire with hot chocolate and cider is at the trailhead.

There's something magical about skiing at night. Maybe it's the anonymity that comes with the darkness. Between the glare of headlamps and the torches, you can slip by friends and pretend to be a mysterious pirate skier. Maybe it's the bright stars and moon of a dark winter night. Big city lights hide the stars, but by Tiki torches and at the edge of Homer's light pollution, the north star and the Big Dipper show the way. Maybe the northern lights will make an appearance, too.

In the Homer Demonstration Forest that the Baycrest trails wind through, it's possible to see moose bedded down in the woods. Maybe a lynx hunting snowshoe hares will cross the trail. Great horned owls call in the distance.

Some skiers add blinking, battery powered Christmas lights to their outfits. One year Sue Post gave her skier friends little fiber optic light strands that blinked pink, blue and green. We wore lights wrapped around our heads and looked like aliens swooshing through the night.

Darkness, fresh snow, flickering torches and the click-click of skis and poles sounding through the night — it all creates a festive affair.

"Kind of the aura of it — people enjoy that," Brann said.

Make it a skiing weekend. Enjoy the Nordic ski club's trails at Baycrest, Lookout Mountain and McNeil Canyon during the day. Invite out-of-town friends, or if you're from out of town, stay at a local inn. Then when night falls and after you've had a hearty meal, ski by torchlight into the mysterious night.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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