Kincaid Park Ski Trails
Kincaid’s 70 km cross country ski trail system is a part of the Anchorage Parks & Recreation Department and managed by the Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage. Perched on the western-most point of land in the Anchorage area, parts of these trails may very well be the first thing you see in Anchorage as you approach by air. The Ted Stevens International Airport is just a click or so to the north, and it’s not uncommon to see Alaska Airlines and other carriers making their final approach as you cruise the Kincaid trails.
At approximately 1,500 acres, Kincaid Park is a sizeable area in which to ski. The trails here were first scratched out of the woods in the early ‘70s with a few kilometers used by one of the local high school teams. Gradual expansion ensued, ramped up considerably in the late ‘70s, and has continued ever since.
Point Campbell, a Nike military ground-to-air missile site, once occupied a significant portion of the landscape here, complete with numerous concrete bunkers that once housed military equipment and missiles – stark reminders of the Cold War era. The site was mothballed in 1978 and given to the city.
This additional real estate more than doubled the amount of available ski terrain. The bunkers are still present, and are used by the city and NSAA to house grooming equipment and for other storage. One of the old bunkers has been remodeled and now is a contemporary well-appointed ski chalet. Skiing among these bunkers randomly sprinkled about the trail system is truly an unusual experience – not your typical ski trail scenery. In 2000 the Kincaid facility received a major facelift in preparation for the 2001 Special Olympic World Winter Games that included an expansion of the chalet, parking, installation of extra-wide tunnels and a scoreboard.
The Kincaid trails have been the host of numerous junior, senior, collegiate, biathlon, U.S. and World Masters and National Championship events. In March 2008 Kincaid will be the site of the Junior Olympics. The competition stadium is large and well-appointed helping make Kincaid one of the best competition venues in the country. Many of the trails have been designed to FIS standards and could, in fact, qualify for use in World Cup competition.
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For recreational skiing and training, the extensive trail network offers enough options to keep even the most avid Nordic skier plenty busy. The trails are clustered by degree of difficulty, with most of the easier trails around the chalet and stadium and to the north. The most difficult trails wind throughout the hilly southern one-third of the park and the intermediate trails are sprinkled through the central and eastern quadrant. There’s even a series of intermediate classic-only trails. Besides the primary parking area at the chalet, several additional parking areas and secondary trail heads provide access to these trails.
The main road into Kincaid dead-ends at the chalet. And since it splits the park more or less in half, several bridges and tunnels are required to cross the road and traverse the system north to south.
Although I did not get to extensively ski these trails, a brief preview afforded me enough insight to see that this is indeed a world-class trail system, worthy of extended exploration. With thoroughly varied terrain, well-designed and groomed trails and a diversity in skiing experiences, from mellow to hilly and technically challenging, the Kincaid Park trail system could be a destination unto itself.
As the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage moves ahead with its vision for Kincaid Park, the stadium is being revamped, several trails widened for the upcoming Junior Olympics and a new sprint loop installed. A new snowmaking system is also under construction, as even Anchorage can be subject to the fickle moods of Mother Nature. A biathlon range is also expected to be ready for use next season. Future plans even include a paved roller ski loop.
Benji Uffenbeck, former Wisconsin High School State Champion Nordic skier, now living in Eagle River, Alaska, offered these insights to skiing in the Anchorage area. “My favorite groomed trail in Anchorage or Eagle River is the Lekish Loop at Kincaid. It's a 7.5 km trail that was created for high-level competition. The trail runs along a bluff overlooking the ocean and offers great views along with some exciting downhills. This trail has been used twice for NCAA Championships and also for the U.S. Nationals in the early ‘90s.
“In terms of difficulty the Lekish and Spencer (at Hillside) are the two hardest trails in town. Both were designed by 1988 Olympian and former coach of the University of Alaska-Anchorage ski team, Bill Spencer. The thing that always impresses me about Kincaid is that you can ski there after work for nearly an hour-and-a-half, under the lights, and never ski the same trail twice.”