‘There’s not one of us that probably would have found each other if it weren’t for this’; Kenai Peninsula Outdoor Club builds community
On a dark Wednesday evening, a group of about 15 outdoor enthusiasts meet at a trail off of Ski Hill Road in Soldotna. Snow cleats donned and ski poles in hand, the season’s first major snowfall calls for a pre-ski season walk.
People and pups alike walk the three-mile trail through the snow in preparation for the ski season. While the pre-season walks allow group members a chance to refresh their ski pole planting techniques, it also provides an opportunity for old and new friends to enjoy outdoor recreation together.
“I think we’re more active in the winter than we are in the summer, that’s probably the biggest surprise,” said Steve Ford, one of the longest active members of the club. He has been involved since it was founded in 1991.
The group began as a hiking club for people who didn’t want to go out by themselves. Today, the group hosts skiing, backpacking, hiking trips, and other group outdoor activities. Many of the club’s members are not originally from the Kenai Peninsula.
“I didn’t grow up here, I didn’t go to college here, so I didn’t really know anybody,” said Larissa Arbelovsky, active club member and chair of the Tsalteshi Trails Association Board of Directors.
“Being able to have members say ‘hey, I want to go try this thing, I want to go on this new hike, explore this new area,’ so you have somebody to go with you if you don’t want to do it on your own, has been really nice.”
Arbelovsky first heard about the outdoor club while on a hiking trail. Since joining, she says the friends made through the club have become family. Today, most of her recreational pursuits involve members of the club.
“We’re at that time of the year where everyone’s ready for snow and they’re ready to ski, they’re ready to get out,” said Becky Wick, who moved to the area about six years ago. For her, the club provided a way to get out and meet new people while enjoying recreational activities.
“This is a group that embraces the seasons,” she added.
After a brisk walk on the trail, the club reconvenes at nearby Kenai River Brewing Company for a hot meal. Ford says the best part about being a member of the outdoor club is the unlikely friends he’s made along the way.
“You look around and there’s not one of us that probably would have found each other if it weren’t for this,” he said.
With the ski season underway, the Kenai Peninsula Outdoor Club will begin hosting regular ski meetups. You can find a calendar of the group’s activities on Meetup, an online social platform. Anyone who’s a part of the club can organize an event.