Sheridan Glacier Lake is shown during the first week of solid freeze, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023. Photo by Kinsey Brown for The Cordova Times

As the winter season approaches Cordovans of all ages are excited to get out and enjoy the recreational activities that cold weather brings. With seasonal outdoor opportunities also comes seasonal safety considerations that are dependent on conditions both in town and out the road.  

As snow begins to accumulate in town, snow plows and sanding vehicles will make regular rounds as needed. The City of Cordova has issued public reminders on the radio advising residents to be aware of plows and to stay back 50 feet. Residents should remove personal property and stored items from the right of ways on city streets to avoid damage by snow plows.  

In a public notice posted on Nov. 14, the City also issued a reminder that it is the responsibility of property owners, tenants, and business owners to keep the public sidewalks adjacent to their property clear of snow and ice. Failure to do so may result in penalties.  

For residents looking to get outside this winter the United States Forest Service (USFS) sites and trails out the road offer plenty of recreational opportunities.  

Bobby Scribner, trails coordinator at the Chugach ranger distinct, says that there are several wintertime specific considerations to keep in mind while enjoying time out the Copper River Highway.  

Scribner says that keeping a few key items like a first-aid kit, extra clothes, and tow rope in your vehicle is a good idea when driving out to access USFS trails.  


“The weather can be more extreme the further out the road you go, there’s a possibility of getting stuck,” he said. “It’s always a good idea to let someone know where you’re going and think about carrying chains and shovels as well.”  

Some of the most popular wintertime trails include Muskeg Meander and the Alaganik Road. Scribner says that as soon as snow conditions permit, the USFS will create a cross-country skiing trail at both sites. The trail is created by snow machines and a 100-pound weighted sled with ski tracks.  

While Muskeg Meander can be a bit challenging for novices, Scribner recommends Alaganik Road for beginners as it is more flat, and offers good visibility.  

In addition to cross-country skiing, ice skating on Eyak Lake and Sheridan Glacier Lake is a favorite local pastime. Ice conditions are variable, especially in the earlier part of the season before a solid freeze has occurred. According to Scribner, the USFS staff does not regularly report on ice conditions so residents looking to skate should gather local reports and be familiar with general ice safety beforehand. He says that most sources agree that a safe ice thickness is at least four inches thick.  

The Cordova Volunteer Fire Department practices ice rescue training each season for Eyak Lake, but response to emergencies at locations farther out the road may be logistically difficult and shouldn’t be relied upon as the sole safety option.  

Scribner recommends several tips for safely ice skating on wild ice including always using the buddy system while recreating in the National Forest during the wintertime.  

“Try to go ice skating with a friend,” he said.  

Scribner went on to say that beginner skaters, especially children, should consider wearing a helmet. For more adventurous skaters he recommends a pair of ice spikes or a rope. Inlets and outlets where there is flowing water should be avoided as the ice in those areas is thinner.  

For Eyak Lake in particular, methane pockets should also be avoided. These pockets are formed by decaying plant matter that displaces ice and forms pockets of gas that become frozen and trapped. Scribner says that these pockets are usually able to be seen on the surface and appear as dark, opaque spots that are circular in shape.  

Overall, Scribner said that people should enjoy recreating outside in and around Cordova as long as they keep some basic safety ideas in mind while doing so.  

“Even if you’ve done it before, refamiliarize yourself with ice and snow safety, and always gather local reports first,” he said.  

Residents curious about current conditions can check the US Forest Service Chugach National Forest Facebook page or visit in person the USFS office on Second Street.  

“Everyone is always welcome to come into the office for information,” Scribner said.  

This story originally ran in the Dec. 1 issue of The Cordova Times.