This wet Spring and Summer have challenged our trail maintenance, but as Ski Season nears, 99% of our trails have been cleared, mowed, and widened, rocks have been removed, and the bridges over low-spots have been repaired or rebuilt. The remaining 1% will be cleaned and cut when the ground freezes. We will be ready to groom when the snow flies.
Membership forms are now available for download from this website. Membership brochures will also be available, by 30 October, at Ski Hut, Continental Ski & Bike, and inside the Blue Box outside the chalet door. We will not be mailing brochures this season.
Our membership prices remain unchanged from the past two seasons, and “Early Bird” pricing will apply to memberships received by 30 November 2017.
The Long Version:
Despite an 11” deficit below average snowfall, we opened with groomed trails on December 1st 2016 and maintained some skiable, groomed trails until 30 March 2017. We were the last trail to close in Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to SkinnySki.com. Two winter warm-ups required us to limit hours and ultimately close to skiing during January and February, but we preserved our snow-base and re-opened with some of the best trail conditions of the season. The “Members Only” weekend was our attempt to thank you for your understanding and cooperation. During last season we hosted the East Nordic team, KidSki, Marshall Holiday Camp, Nordic North Stars, Ski Duluth, and a relocated Proctor HS race. We also provided an intro to Nordic skiing to 87 student/clients from Woodland Hills, and hosted high school and college teams from the metro area and Wisconsin, who had poor snow at home.
Our grooming received positive feedback. It is worth noting that we effectively groomed with only 1 and ½ sleds last season, due to a chronic overheating problem with one of the sleds. Since I will not send groomers out alone at night, for obvious safety reasons, this restricted when we groomed, and increased the cost of grooming as we had to sit on the trail for 20 minutes waiting for the bad sled to cool and restart. To remedy this, at the end of the season we purchased a new Bearcat grooming sled, the same sled used at Giants Ridge and Lutsen, optimized for towing a groomer, and we will have two reliable groomers this year. Many Classic Skiers noted the improved track setting after December, which can be credited to the new YTS track setter that we purchased and installed before Christmas. Credit also to the improving skill of the Groomers!
Due mostly to the difficult snow conditions, and my determination to “Preserve the Trail”, at least through Birkie weekend, the question of “Dogs on the Trail”, became somewhat of an issue last season. There is little question that allowing dogs onto a groomed trail, whether for ski-touring or ski-kjoring, is hard on the trail, and destructive during very soft (fragile) conditions. That’s why dogs are prohibited on the City Trails and most other trails. However, one of the special things about Snowflake has always been that Members have the privilege of skiing with their dogs. They do not pay extra for this privilege, they pay the same as non-dog members. With privilege comes responsibility, and members with dogs are expected to remove dog droppings, control their dogs, and minimize the impact on the trails, especially the vulnerable classic tracks. Most dog owners act responsibly, but as is always the case, the 1 percenters attract the attention of the management. Ski-kjoring down the skate lane behind the groomer while your dog lopes down the freshly-set classic track is inconsiderate, and leaving bags of dog-poop on the chalet porch is just rude. But, I witnessed both.
As the trails became more fragile, we decided to restrict which trails were open to dogs, and on limited occasions, to keep dogs off the trails. This was done for one reason: to preserve the trails for skiers. The restrictions were posted on our phone message, and on SkinnySki.com, and signs were posted. And the restrictions were lifted as soon as conditions allowed. Going into the new season, we will endeavor to find a solution that works for all members, and I welcome ideas from all members, especially the dog-owners, One idea is to make the “Perimeter Loop” the preferred venue for ski-kjoring and touring with dogs. Another is to have “dog-days”, where dogs would have access on the day before we have scheduled grooming. I am open to ideas…
Post-season, we began trail work in May and have worked through the summer to improve troublesome portions of the trails, rebuild bridging in low spots, remove protruding rocks, and prep the trails for snow/grooming. The frequent and excessive rain has made it difficult – our equipment just can’t get through saturated ground – but at this point we have only a small area that we will clean-up once the ground freezes. We did clear, and mow a “new” loop up in Fisketti Junction, on the 10K, that has been unused for a few years. We are improving the Perimeter Loop connectors, and signage, to make it easier to ski, and we are improving signage throughout the trail system.
Trail lighting on the 5K remains a problem. The electrician that I first hired was overwhelmed by the task, and gave-up. I have another working on it, but how much of the lighting can or will be restored, I do not know. I will have headlamps available for members to borrow – at no cost – if the lighting is not restored.
My big hope is that the summer precipitation will turn into proper winter precipitation, and we will enjoy a snowy, Minnesota winter. Our trails, Your trails will be groomed and ready!