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The University Ski Trails Ride

By Liam Wescott

This is a pretty straightforward and fun little ride that can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be.  As mapped here, it's about 10 miles long with maybe a thousand feet of climbing, but it could be longer or shorter.  A determined rider or group of riders could easily complete this course in under an hour.  If you want to go slow and mellow, you can do it in two or three if you'd like.

Start at the Geophysical Institute parking lot (the big building up on West Ridge at UAF campus, with the big satellite dish on its roof) and head west into the University ski trail system.  You go past the ski warm-up hut and onto a road for a little over 2/10ths of a mile.  You get to another road going off to the right.  Take it, descend down it for a bit, until you come to the sign saying "Bicycle Bumps Trail."  This is one of my favorite little, technical, bumpy descents.  It's about a quarter-mile long, going down through the trees, up and down with plenty of woop-de-does, bumps, technical sections, etc.  It's not really recommended for beginners, so if you're a beginner, take it nice and slow and/or have a more experienced cyclist with you.  You come out at the bottom of the hill on the same road you left.  If you'd like, go back up and do the Bicycle Bumps again (and again and again, it really is that fun!) and then head on down the road.

The road comes out in the "T-Field," which is a large hay field.  You ride along its eastern edge, then up around the top, and then into the woods.  Go up, and up, and up, then down, down, down along a wonderful section of trail with lots of roots and bumps.  You come out at the bottom of Yankovitch Road, right across the street from the LARS station (where they have the yaks and other large animals).  Take the Equinox Marathon Trail here, which skirts around the edge of the LARS station.  It veers off to the right, then goes slightly downhill, then uphill all the way up to Dalton Trail (a paved road).

Stop here, collect your breath, and take the trail continuing on the other side of Dalton, on the side of the road.  This trail winds and wends along through the subdivision, then drops down along a ravine (be careful here! it's VERY steep), and comes out near the bottom of Ballaine Hill.  You cross Ballaine Road at this point and climb up along the trail that goes alongside same (or take the pavement).  When you get to the top of Ballaine, turn right at Red Fox Drive and go down it for maybe a mile or so until you get to the continuation of the Skarland Ski Trail going downhill.  It's not recommended to go all the way down this trail to the bottom, a) because it ends in a bit of a swamp, and b) because it becomes the Pearl Creek Community Trail System.  You can keep on Red Fox all the way over to Auburn or go downhill on this trail for a while until you connect with other trails that put you back on Ballaine.

Ride back across Ballaine and head back toward the University.  You can take any number of trails on the north side of the University or just ride on up through the University itself back to West Ridge.

Congratulations, you've made it!