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!