FAIRBANKS - They are the Nordic farmers of Fairbanks, trying to milk every ounce out of winter and spring that they can before surrendering to that wretched, Godforsaken, snow-less season known as summer.
"Squeezing in the last little bit," said Tom Dolan, as he rounded a corner to exit the Outhouse Loop and prepared to head onto the Tower Loop Wednesday night on the ski trails at Birch Hill Recreation Area.
As he headed into the woods, the sound of his skis scraping on the ice-encrusted snow could be heard through the birch trees, like an ice scraper on a windshield but with a smoother rhythm. It was 7 p.m., the sun was shining bright, it was 40 degrees and the ski trails at Birch Hill were as empty as the streets of a ghost town.
While most people put their skis away for the season a week or two ago, there are still a few die-hards out there who refuse to acknowledge that the cross-country ski season may be starting to wind down.
Don't let the dry pavement, standing water and mud around town fool you, there is still plenty of snow in the woods to ski on and there are still plenty of skiers like Dolan willing to ski on it, no matter how thin, rotten, dirty, icy, crusty, hard or soft it is.
Susan Sugai and Laura Jacobs were at Birch Hill Wednesday night squeezing the last drops out of the blink of an eye that Fairbanksans know as spring.
"I'm one of the few people I know that mourns springtime," said Sugai, a 54-year-old oceanography researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. "I like to go out knowing there's no more snow left."