Yesterday I XC skied the Upper Buskin and it was surprisingly good. The golf course was a wasteland of drifts and blowing snow, but in the trees on the upper buskin practically no wind. 6-8 inches of snow so no rocks on trails, but rivers still either running or not enough snow to cover rocks. Hopefully we get some more snow this afternoon and tonight.
Some big trees blew down and there are changes in the river. At the first crossing this is now a tree across the river! Also at the upper crossing just below the canyon the river totally changed course and now it is difficult to get on river at that point.
Today I intend to cross the river and ski the alder tunnels. should be good. Check my blog for pictures from yesterday.
12/29 9 AM - I XC skied in the Upper Buskin again yesterday. Maybe 3-4 inches of new snow. It tends to snow more up there than at the golf course or airport. I think it also blows in from off the surrounding mountain tops. Anyway the coverage is pretty good. All the old roads are good, but the river bed still a little rocky. You can cross the Buskin now without taking your boots off. upper canyon is still flowing. I skied up in the meadows above the lower canyon for the first time in 2 years. Still a little too much salmonberry showing.
Hopefully this new snow does the trick! I also think that if the weather holds we should be skiing up the river and into the canyon soon.
Cool, good to know. Here is a map of the Buskin trail system. We haven’t worked on the trails in a few years so things may be pretty wild and woolly (aka non-existent). The red dots show trail junctions and the mileages show the distances between adjacent dots.
12/29 I actually did bring along a hand saw and did some trail maintenance. ;-) Today was excellent skiing. We now have on average 2 feet of snow on the ground in the upper buskin. And I measured it on my ski pole. Today It was very slow due to deep snow and when I left the ski tracks from previous days - over knee deep! However, the canyon is still a no go and the river flowing in places. Patrick
1/1/20 I went to the upper buskin today - still good coverage with a little less than a foot of crusty snow. The conditions are 'crusty' and fast. Not as much ocean effect snow as I had hoped to soften things up. The canyon is still a no go with the river still running. But I think in a day or so the canyon should be frozen but we need a dusting of snow on top to make the skiing good.
I think I will skate at Abercrombie or try Lake Genivieve for skate skiing. Over 6 inches of rough ice at Lake Gertrude - but only 2-3 in the thin neck near the ocean. This little area froze late and is always a little sketchy. But stay away from the ocean end and all is good. Just watch out near the edges getting onto the ice! There is a little snow along the west shore on the ice but we need more for good XC skiing. Patrick
1/6. There is a lot of snow now! And the river is mostly good. Some water on the ice in places but I managed to ski up into the canyon. I went to the big bend but not the waterfall. You still have to take your skis to cross the first stream crossing near the parking lot. Patrick
1/8/20 Today I skied across Buskin Lake from the outlet to the river. There was water on the ice under the snow in places. The new snow has weighted down the ice and water has come up through the drain holes. The snow insulates the water and keeps it from freezing. But the ice is safe and if you follow my tracks they will be frozen ice in the slushy areas. But if you leave my tracks in those areas you will have snow freezing onto the bottoms of your skis! This is what happened to me on my across the lake - but not on the way home when I stayed in my old tracks.
The river is good skiing and I went up into the canyon. The canyon is mostly good with a few 'tricky' spots. In Particular, the sharp bend and narrow spot at the end of the straight away right below the canyon is really bad (every year this is a trouble spot) but if you take off your skis and scrabble on the rock face holding on to the old alder trunks you can bridge the 5 foot gap. And it is worth it because you can then continue into the canyon all the way to the deep pool after the big bend. You can not get to the waterfall yet.
I parked at the outlet of Buskin Lake and skied across the lake following tracks put there by Mr Squishy earlier in the morning. You do indeed cut down to slurpee snow that is sandwiched between the lake ice and the fresh pow surface. It can seem a bit disconcerting and you run the risk of getting iced bases, but it went fine. The river bed is mostly in good shape and there is a very nice track all the way up the upper river into the canyon. Some of the ice bridges and shelves are rotting and negotiating the canyon is getting a little sporty in places. Overall I was able to ski 2.5 miles from the parking area at the outlet to where I turned around in the canyon. Definitely worth a visit, but be very careful where you access the lake at the outlet. There is open water, but if you stick to the shoreline and ski away from the river things seem solid.
Crossing Buskin Lake from the outlet to the inlet on the far side:
A nice track up the upper river bed:
The entrance to the canyon offers some obstacle courses:
I'm impressed that you made 2.5 miles from the pump house into the canyon - I made it that far Wednesday, but have turned back earlier every day since then due to sketchy ice bridges. BTW, I tried to break trail to the alder tunnel, but the knee deep bottomless snow pack was too much for me. www.relive.cc/view/vYvrDwPjxx6
Last Edit: Jan 13, 2020 14:45:26 GMT -9 by mrsquishy
1/14/2020 Today I tried Lake Genivieve for skate skiing and it was awful. 3-4 inches of soft snow with a breakable crust. I did notice that the swampy acres trail looks good for classic! I went to the Buskin Outlet and skied across the lake. Long patches of grey ice but not so bad. The Upper Buskin trails are great where a track existed prior to Sunday's warm weather. I am a little bummed we did not break a trail in the alder tunnel. I skied the alder tunnel and the crusty snow is not conducive to making new tracks - but the alder tunnel is still pretty fun. Needs some branch clipping but nothing that prevents easy progress. I took the tunnel and continued on to meadow and then back down to river. I went upriver the same distance I could go on Friday (same distance Philip went on map above). It really did not change much from the warming. Basically same amount of snow. the trail in riverbed is best. Patrick
1/18/2020. I wanted to downhill ski at the pass and the road actually was not all that bad, but past the golf course it was a demolition derby of cars with Florida plates. And so I parked at the golf course and went cross country skiing. VERY deep snow and it never turned to rain. To access the upper Buskin you pretty much have to park at the golf course and ski down the road to the trailhead. No room to park on the road. Also the new snow will push down the ice and create more slush on lake - so may be best to wait a day or 2 before going across lake again. I skied down the trail from the 'second parking lot past golf course' and went quite a ways up into the canyon. It is excellent if slow skiing. Now someone else needs to break a trail down the river to the lake - and the alder tunnel! Patrick
Last Edit: Jan 18, 2020 17:27:00 GMT -9 by patrick
I skied from the outlet around the lake to the SE corner where I picked up the old WWII road around the lake and took that part way up the Upper Buskin River. Then I hopped on the river and went up the canyon. The lake offers exeptional skiing right now with nice glide, good kick traction (for waxless), and decent poling. It would probably also be amazing skate skiing from the outlet all the way around the edge of the lake to the inlet. The center of the lake looked like refrozen slush, but there is a nice ring of firm snow around the shore. The WWII road section sucked. It was punchy with poor kick grip and my poles sank to half their length if I pushed down on them with any force. The Alder Tunnel trail would be an excursion into self-flagellation. The river bed was okay with firmer skiing but still kind of bottomless poling. I spent some time cutting alders in the canyon to make passage easier. If I had anticipated good skiing this winter I would have just hiked up it in the fall with chest waders and a chainsaw and gone to to town on everything hanging over the creek. Maybe next year. Right now it's actually pretty well trimmed aside from a few detours into the alders to avoid some narrow ice shelves. Anyway, I can heartily recommend the ski around the south end of the lake and with one or two more skiers on the river, that should firm up (for the skis anyway) and be nice. The weather the rest of the week looks cold and stable (with a chilly NW breeze), so this should remain a decent option for a while.
One thing to watch out for is that there is a slight snow berm where you leave Anton Larsen Bay Road and drive the short distance to the parking area at the outlet of the lake. No problem in my Tacoma, but a Subaru might get stuck. Just FYI. There is alternative plowed parking at the big egg-shaped water facility just 100 yards back down the road towards the airport.
Today's Track (green line) and a scene from the river bed:
1/21/2020. This afternoon I skied across the lake and up the river into the canyon. I was worried that the lake would be a sheet of ice but it was actually not so bad - and would be perfect skate skiing. In fact that is what I will do tomorrow! The trail up the river is quite nice - I only wish Philip had keep his skis further apart. The track was too narrow. Also Philip really improved the lower canyon trail - he was one busy beaver and I certainly appreciated it!
Later I checked on Abercrombie and it would be OK skate skiing but maybe a bit too stiff for classic skiing. Not icy though.
Yeah, sorry about the narrow track. The old track furrow that was partially snowed-in sort of aimed my skis towards each other. I tried to widen it on my way out, but... well, consider it a good balance exercise.
2/22/20 Today I went skate skiing on Buskin Lake - it was pretty darn good. A little punchy in places but if you stayed a little ways from shore and sort of followed the edge of the deep snow the conditions were perfect. I also have heard that Burma Road has a good track set and that it has not been desecrated (yet) by snowshoers and hikers.
Note that Buskin Lake does have a great many 'bubble holes' this year. These are holes created by bubbling methane from the bottom of the lake. You can ski right over them - the ice is thick right up to their edges. Only place on the lake that are possibly unsafe are at the outlet where the moving water keeps it ice free and in the far 'right hand' corner (as seen from the outlet). There are some springs back there. But if you follow my tracks from today you will be safe!
1/23/2020 I skied in from the road today. It is a nice track and the stream at the first crossing has finally frozen over. So no more hopping on rocks (I fell last week) or climbing over on the tree. Also going up river many of the pools have frozen back over. I went up to the 'power line' pool beyond where Philip had cut. It is the s turn at the end of the straight away and the beginning of the true canyon. Every year it is problematic. And it has re frozen. I crossed it but do to time constraints had to head back. But it looks like you can go up into the canyon again! Patrick
1/24/2020 Today I skied all the way up the Upper Buskin Canyon to the waterfall! I have not done that for a while. The power line 'hole' is the one tricky spot. You have to take off your skis and hold onto branches as you scrabble about 5 feet. But it is worth it. I skied in from the road, but did ski down the river to the lake. The track is blown in on the lower sections of the river. The upper river is the best skiing.
On the way I also checked out Lake Genivieve on Tom Stiles road - I walked out on the lake and it looks like perfect skate skiing. Sink in 1/2 inch sort of snow. But I wanted to ski the canyon!
Upper Buskin is excellent today. Park at the lake outlet and ski around the edge of the lake and then up the river into the canyon. You still need to cross some open water on the upper river a time or two, and there are a few sporty moves to get around branches or negotiate a narrow shelf, but it’s all good clean fun. With the nice snow and good coverage we did a figure 8 loop, adding in some routes on the south side of the river. Those are worth visiting if you have never been back there. Hurry though. They are calling for rain tomorrow.
Conditions on the lake were nothing short of ideal;
Setting the track up the river was work, but once it was broken in the skiing was awesome:
There was a trio of river otters that belly-toboggan’d pretty much everywhere on the upper river:
2/18/2020 Fantastic skate skiing on Buskin Lake and in the meadows up near the canyon. Crust cruising about as good as it gets. Most of the lake is grey ice but along the east shore there is a 20 meter wide margin of good snow. Very fast but you do get an edge in. The lower river was a little punchy with a thin icy crust so I did some double poling in the old classic tracks from before the storm. But up river and in the meadows the crust cruising gets good again. Before the warm storm on Sunday there was maybe 4 inches of powder on a hard crust. Now there is an inch or so of 'freeze dried' powder on the same crust. It is not powder but almost acts like powder. I could do parallel turns in my skate skis and snow plow - so like powder on a crust. Down near the lake there is an icy crust on this powder layer and it is not good. So Lake and Upper Buskin Fantastic, and in between stick to double poling in the classic tracks. Patrick