Category Archives: snowmachining

Iron dogged determination — Soldotna snowmachine racer Scott Davis looks to represent motorsports with nomination to Alaska Sports Hall of Fame

Photo courtesy of Scott Davis. Scott Davis crosses the Iron Dog finish line for his seventh win in 2007 with partner Todd Palin.

Photo courtesy of Scott Davis. Scott Davis crosses the Iron Dog finish line for his seventh win in 2007 with partner Todd Palin.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Any Alaskans interested in snowmachine racing probably know of Soldotna’s Scott Davis. Those with even the merest passing interest in Iron Dog definitely do. Fans of the 2,000-mile annual snowmachine race could rattle off his highlight stats as smoothly as the acceleration on the high-performance machines the two-person teams ride from Big Lake to Nome every February.

He holds a record seven championships — in 1985, 1989, 1993, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2007 — with five different partners, has 20 career top-three finishes and is the only continuously participating racer who was in the first Iron Dog and is still racing today. He’s only missed a couple events due to injury.

Come Dec. 8 he could have a new title — first motorsports athlete inducted to the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.

“There’s never been a motorsports person that’s made it. But it couldn’t be more Alaskan,” Davis said.

Davis is among 48 other athletes nominated for the individual honor, as well as 26 nominees in the Moment category and 19 entrants in the Event category. Voting — including by the public — closes at midnight Dec. 2.

The Hall of Fame began in 2006, with its first batch of inductees in 2007. Past inductees include a mix of dog mushers, skiers, mountain climbers, runners, basketball, baseball, football and hockey players, and a rower. Events and Moments reflect the same sports — the Iditarod and Yukon Quest, the first ascent of Mount McKinley, the Fairbanks Equinox Marathon, the Great Alaska Shootout, the Midnight Sun Baseball Game, and even Les Anderson’s catch of a world-record king salmon in the Kenai River.

But no honoring of motorsports. This year, Davis and the Iron Dog are nominated.

“I think that there couldn’t be anything more Alaskan than Iron Dog. How many people do you know that actually mush dogs? Not very many,” he said, though hastening to add his appreciation for the athletic achievement required in mushing, as well as mountain climbing, hockey and the other sports that are already well represented in the hall.

“The first Iron Dog I ever did I went, ‘Holy s***, if I were George Attla’s lead dog I’d bite him right in the butt. After doing 50,000 miles or whatever I’ve done on that (Iditarod Trail, which Iron Dog follows for most of its route), I’ve got a lot of respect for the dog mushers. They just do it a different way than we do it. I think (Iron Dog) is uniquely Alaskan, and I think it’s a world-class event and I think we should at least recognize the event if nothing else,” he said.

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Happier trails — Cabin Hoppers get out and grooming after broken-down start to season

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Even before this weekend’s dump of powder, snow had already accumulated a few feet deep in the Caribou Hills. And the high country has been open to snowmachine riding for months, leading some to wonder where the Caribou Hills Cabin Hoppers have been this season.

Along most of the 100 miles of normally groomed trail, the snow is still in its raw form, its thick cloak covering downed trees and hiding deep creek beds, with drifted mounds in some areas and rock-hard, wind-packed sections in others.

“We’re working on it and should be out there by early next week,” said Cabin Hoppers’ president Rick Northey late last week.

Northey said that a series of problems have worked against the snowmachine club’s grooming efforts this season, starting with a structure fire this fall that claimed the equipment shed and fuel for the club’s grooming coordinator and operator, Gary “Tinker” Anderson. Fundraising efforts to help Anderson trumped trail work.

“Everyone jumped in to help him,” Northey said. “That was the priority over grooming.”

Then winter came and snow fell early, but the snow fell before the ground underneath had a chance to freeze. The fresh blanket of white further insulated the ground, keeping swamps, creeks and rivers too wet to support the weight of a groomer.

“The weather initially worked against us,” Northey said. “We got the big squirt of snow, but with the warm temperatures right behind it, there wasn’t much we could do.” Continue reading

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Ready, Freddie — Landmark Caribou Hills establishment open in time for snow

By Joseph Robertia

Photos courtesy of Sheila Best. Lynn and Freddie Pollard bought and re-opened Rocky’s Straight-Inn Lodge off Oil Well Road in the Caribou Hills in Ninilchik, and named it Freddie’s Roadhouse.

Redoubt Reporter

From four-wheeler riders mudding in spring and summer, to hunters in fall, and to snowmachiners and dog mushers in winter, the Caribou Hills beckons temptingly to many who enjoy the outdoors.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a cabin there, though. For those who don’t, new ownership of a well-known establishment at Mile 16 of Oil Well Road will offer weary travelers some respite.

“People in the Caribou Hills needed a place and we wanted to give it to them,” said Lynn Pollard.

She and her husband, Freddie, have been working hard for the past year to renovate the structures and property of the old Rocky’s Straight-In Lodge, now called Freddie’s Roadhouse.

“My husband always liked the place when it was Rocky’s, and was sad when it closed,” Pollard said.

The establishment went on the real-estate market, and the Pollards made their move.

“The price was right,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll ever make money on it, but that wasn’t the goal. The goal was to give people a place to come and have fun, and that it’s more of a family establishment than a bar atmosphere.” Continue reading

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Noisy critics — Opponents say moose-noise study is gunning for restricting snowmachines on the refuge

Editor’s note: The is part two of a story on a study looking into a link between noise and moose stress on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Please see last week’s story for more information on the study.

By Joseph Robertia

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A cow moose crunches through the snow this winter. A two-year study is investigating whether noise on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is causing stress in moose. Critics of the study charge that it is an attempt to create a reason to restrict snowmachine use on the refuge.

Redoubt Reporter

Tim Mullet, a doctoral candidate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, is currently involved in a two-year study of the relationship between sound and moose on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. In addition to recording and mapping sounds, Mullet is collecting moose poop and having it analyzed for levels of glucocorticoids — hormones that are indicators of animal stress — in an attempt to determine whether exposure to human-made noise causes such stress in local moose.

Mullet has been giving presentations about his study at various venues in an attempt to inform the public, and to involve local snowmachine clubs and users, since snowmachine noise is one of the major sounds being evaluated in the study. Many who have heard about the study are not enthusiastic about it.

“I’ve heard his presentation twice and I hate to be critical, because I know he’s working hard and trying to do a good job to get his Ph.D., but I think he’s got a bad project. This moose dropping thing is, well, it’s a load of poop,” said Ted Spraker, who retired in 2002 after 28 years of state service with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Spraker said he fears that when Mullet’s study is complete, it will merely reveal information that is already known about sound given off by snowmachines.

“When everything is said and done, he’ll learn that snowmachines make noise, and on a clear day you can hear them a mile away. It’s not new ground that is being turned,” he said. Continue reading

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Sounds of stress? Study targets noise effects on moose

By Joseph Robertia

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Moose, such as this spike-fork seen earlier this winter in the Caribou Hills, are the subject of an ongoing study being conducted on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. The study will attempt to better understand the effects sound, such as that produced by snowmachines, has on moose.

Redoubt Reporter

The natural world is filled with the sounds of animals communicating with each other. To human ears, seagull shrieks and squirrel chatter may come more readily to ears and mind as the noises of the natural world, but moose can be plenty noisy, as well, using a variety of sounds to signal their intentions year-round.

Bulls rustle brush with their racks and grunt to females during the fall breeding season, cows emit soft whines and mews, and hidden calves bleat when they’re hungry to call their mom back to them.

Equally important to moose is their ability to hear sounds for their survival. The snapping of nearby twigs or rustling brush could mean that a predator, such as a bear or wolf, is on the hunt nearby.

“The soundscape — the cacophony of sounds that define a landscape — is very important to animals in their communication with each other and in their ability to listen to their environment,” said Tim Mullet, a doctoral candidate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, currently involved in a two-year study of the relationship between sounds and moose on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Human-generated sound could be interfering with natural sounds, which subsequently may be stressing moose, or so goes Mullet’s hypothesis. Continue reading

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Cool it — Snowmachiners all revved up with nowhere to go waiting for freeze-up

By Joseph Robertia

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Andrew Roche, of Anchorage, warms up his sled at the Gravel Pad before a day of riding in the Caribou Hills on Saturday. The heavy snowfall earlier this month has enticed many riders, but several of the lakes and swamps have not completely frozen yet.

Redoubt Reporter

The old saying, “Be careful what you wish for,” certainly rings true for snowmachiners right now.

Several feet of snow have fallen in the Caribou Hills. Normally, this would make for a snowmachiner’s paradise. However, with the first major snowfall event occurring before temperatures dipped below freezing, nearly all creeks, rivers and lakes are open and most muskegs still too wet and squishy to support sleds.

“We were fortunate to get such a heavy snowfall this early, but we’ll need another snowfall or two like it before we can start grooming trails,” said Steve Attleson, president of the Caribou Hills Cabin Hoppers snowmachine club, which grooms roughly 90 miles of trail on the north end of the Caribou Hills.

On the south end, the Snowmads snowmachine club grooms another 50 miles of trail at their end of the hills, but Snowmads’ president Dave Mastolier said they too wouldn’t be firing up the grooming machine anytime soon.

“We got about 3 feet of snow, which has now settled to about 16 inches, but we need to wait and let it set up more and cool off before we can groom it. Compared to the northern end, we have a lot more muskegs and waterholes and nothing is really frozen yet, so we’re warning all our members to be very careful if they go riding,” he said.

On Saturday, riders in the Caribou Hills were heeding that warning. Andrew Roche, of Anchorage, said he was unfamiliar with the area and intended to stick to the main trails.

“I’ve got a map, and if I see anything flat and smooth I’m going to assume it’s a pond or marsh and stay away,” he said. “I’m just hoping to be careful and have fun burning a tank of gas.” Continue reading

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Go snow — Lovers of white stuff rejoice; Pushers of shovels think twice

By Jenny Neyman

Photo courtesy of Clark Fair, Redoubt Reporter. Screaming with delight as they glide toward a jump are, from left, Freya Chay, Carolyn Knackstedt, Michelle Klaben and Eve Ferguson.

Redoubt Reporter

Were this weekend’s snowfall equivalent to powdered sugar, this was no mere dusting, but full-blown sugar shock.

The novelty, alone, of the season’s first appreciable snowfall in the Kenai-Soldotna area was enough to draw attention. The volume of it — 10-plus inches of wet, heavy white stuff — invariably incited strong feeling about it. The flavor of those feelings depended on one’s interaction with it.

Drivers churning through slushy streets reminiscent of spring breakup, shovelers slopping the waterlogged mass and residents losing electricity as the clingy snow weighted down power lines were of one opinion about it — an opinion not shared by those who see snow as recreation.

In a neighborhood off Kalifornsky Beach Road on Sunday, the whine of snowmachines and shrieks of kids building forts and snowmen, rolling out angels and diving through snowball fights masked the rhythmic scrapes of shovels on driveways and the escalating screech of tires scrolling for traction.

“Yeah, it packs good,” said Liam Miller, 9, of Kenai, as he and his older brother, Jarin Miller, and friend, Jaycee Herrmann, alternated

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. From left, Liam Miller, Jarin Miller and Jaycee Herrmann work on a snowman Sunday.

between snowman and snowball construction.

At Tsalteshi Trails behind Skyview High School, Charlotte Harvey, of Soldotna, was packing her skis back in her car around noon Sunday, having just made a loop around the trails. It beats walking on them, she said. On Saturday the snow was up to her knees and too wet for skiing to be anything other than an exercise in determination. By Sunday the precipitation was more snow than slush and a few loops had been groomed.

“This stuff will be a nice base. It makes it worth it getting dark sooner,” Harvey said. Continue reading

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