Avalanche blocks ski train

Train backs up to Portage, where skiers disembark

Posted: Sunday, January 11, 2004

ANCHORAGE - Crews on Saturday finished clearing up the remains of an avalanche that blocked a train packed with skiers and a Florida film crew as they returned to Anchorage from a promotional trek near Portage.

The Friday trip was arranged for the film crew, which was hired by the Alaska Travel Industry Association to shoot footage for a video.

Alaska Railroad officials said about 175 people were on board the train, which was making a special excursion to Spencer Glacier for a day of skiing.

Complete with a bar and polka band, the train trip was mimicking the popular annual Ski Train outings, in which the Alaska Railroad and the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage whisk skiers to snowy sites.

Friday's train was largely filled with Ski Train volunteers and supporters. They spent several hours skiing at the glacier.

But on the return trip to Anchorage, a 250-foot-long, 2-foot-deep avalanche covered the tracks at Mile 71.1 of the Seward Highway, between Portage and Girdwood.

Because the avalanche area remained unstable, the train crew opted to backtrack to Portage.

The train, unable to turn around, chugged backward to Portage, where passengers board buses and returned to Anchorage.

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