The APU Jim Mahaffey Trails System is the oldest ski trail systems in Anchorage. It was the first of its kind that offered a lighted 5k looped trail for cross country skiing in the late 1960’s.  It is no longer a lighted trail and the original loop has had many additions and upgrades.

It was originally designed as a diagonal ‘classic’ style ski trail back before skate skiing was popular.  As a result, the trails are too narrow to be ideal for skate-style skiing.  The effort to widen the trail to accommodate the longer, side-to-side stride of skate skiing was not accepted by the community (1990’s, Marc Phillips).  The desire to keep the trail wooded and narrow was upheld.  It is assumed this was to keep the neighborhood rural feel to the trails and to preserve the trees that would need to be cut down to accommodate the 16-foot-wide tread base needed to make it wide enough to skate ski proficiently.  This is one of the primary reasons why the APU Elite Nordic Ski Team prefers to train on other, more developed trails in Anchorage.

The new multi-use trail designation was done in agreeance and in coordination with the Municipality of Anchorage Parks and Recreations Department and with the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA).

APU shares the trail system with UAA.  The North and North-west sections of trail is on UAA property.  APU has historically maintained and groomed the UAA areas.

Why Multi-Use for APU?  

  1. Our user group has changed. This year, due to the pandemic, we have seen an increase in trail use of 30% city wide.  This includes all user groups. (MOA Parks and Rec. Dept)

    In the past 50 plus years since the APU trail system was established, we have experienced significant growth and development of the surrounding campus.  This includes the popular University Lake Dog Park, the Providence and ANTHC hospital complex, UAA, the Spring Hill Suits Hotel, the Spine Institute and the USGS building.

    With this growth came an increase in APU trail use and the majority of these new trail users are not skiers but walkers on lunch break or commuters on winter fat tire bikes, for example.  In recent years we have seen a huge increase in fat tire bikers using the Anchorage trails and the APU trail system is no exception.

  2. We want a more inclusive and accessible trails system. As a ‘ski only’ trail system people living and/or working on campus did not have easy access to the trails in the winter.  To venture out to the trails from APU housing, classrooms or offices was not easily done without violating the ‘ski-only’ rule.

    All convenient APU campus trail access points, to include Moseley Sports Center, the Atwood Center (student’s residence) and Faculty Row Drive, all required travel on ‘ski only’ designated trails.  This is the main reason why the ‘ski only’ designation was so hard to enforce.

    We recognize the importance of the outdoors to the mental and physical health of the community, especially during the pandemic, where the outdoors is the safest place to social distance, get exercise and relieve stress.  We want to remove any barriers that may stop people from using the APU trail system.  Some barriers that existed with the ‘ski only’ designation included being physically able to ski, having the desire to ski and having the equipment to ski.

  3. Brush clearing and signage.  We recognize that there are some places on the trail system that can be dangerous for the lack of visibility around corners or on hills. This summer we plan to remove brush and low growing tree branches in these areas.  We also plan to install permanent warning signs about these hazards.   
  4. A message of controlled skiing and biking. Please use caution.  Skiing and biking is inherently dangerous.  The APU trails system was not originally designed for skate skiing so it is important to recognize the trails maybe narrower than other ski trails in Anchorage.  Please reduce speeds accordingly and stay to the right side of the trail.   It is the responsibility of the skier or biker to use safe speeds and stay under control.
  5. Please respect the grooming. We want to impress on all trail users to share the trail respectfully and when snow conditions are soft, please avoid walking or biking on the groomed trails.  We will do our best to inform trail users of the importance of preserving the grooming and the diagonal set ski tracks. We plan to do this with new signage to be installed this summer and currently on our website.


PC: Teresa Fish