Well groomed
Well groomed

Nordic skiers enjoy fruits of their labors 8 smooth trails

The lights at Beaver Mountain Ski Area had nothing on the full moon?s beams in a clear night sky up Logan Canyon earlier this month. In a rolling meadow half a mile below the resort, cross-country skiers enjoyed a newly groomed ski trail. Headlamps bobbed along the course, and happy whoops echoed through the luminous air.

Nordic United, in cooperation with Utah State University, the Utah Conservation Corps and the U.S. Forest Service, established a groomed trail system this winter in Logan Canyon and Green Canyon for snowshoers and Nordic skiers. Several loops of signed, fenced trails in the Sink Hollow area are providing recreational opportunities for skiers, snowshoers and even their dogs. Meanwhile, trails in Green Canyon and on the university?s HPER field provide a place for Nordic skiing fun close to town.

The trails at Sink Hollow form the nexus of a Nordic ski center, said Nordic United president Wally Macfarlane. According to him, the center will include Bbasic facilities of signage, fencing, maps and groomed trails week in and week out.C

BThis year is the year,C he said. BOne goal is to have 10 to 15 kilometers of groomed trails for skating and classic (Nordic skiing), and also snowshoeing. We also want it fenced to separate uses.C

The Sink Hollow meadow loop is a 17-foot-wide trail, allowing for both skate skiing and classic, diagonal stride skiing. Two weeks ago, after a big snowstorm, it was a smooth corduroy trail thanks to a grant that funded work by Beaver Mountain Ski Area?s slope groomer.

Without track set for stride skiing, the classic skiers were doing much more kicking than gliding, participants jog-shuffling the uphill portions of the course. Meanwhile, skate skiers flashed past like wintertime butterflies. Veteran skier Aniko Pearson, 12, of Logan was skating the 2.5-mile (5.5 k) course.

BIt?s fun!C she exclaimed

Skier Sammie Macfarlane of Logan said, BThis is the first time I?ve been. I borrowed some equipment and went to skate skiing.C

The Sink Hollow trail includes four loops. Some loops are one-way, marked by trail signs. Adding the meadow trail to the loops for stride skiing and snowshoeing, the trails at Sink Hollow total 15 kilometers, nearly 7 miles.

Wally Macfarlane described the cooperating groups behind the groomed trail system.

BNordic United is spearheading efforts to establish Cache Valley Nordic skiing trails in a lot of ways, but each organization has its role,C he said. For instance, USU campus recreation arranged for the permit to use school trust lands (from the State Institutional Trust Lands Administration) for the Sink Hollow trails.

BOur role is being the community connection,C said Macfarlane. BWe have the membership of users, and we plan activities.C

Some events are short-notice, such as skiing the meadow course below Beaver Mountain Ski Area on a full-moon night. Others are more involved, like a race or a clinic to teach cross-country skills.

John Louviere, USU Outdoor Recreation Center program administrator, noted that the ORC takes care of grooming the HPER field ski course and the Green Canyon trail with the help of a Forest Service snowmobile.

BLast year, we purchased our own groomer,C he said.

The Green Canyon trail is an up and down trail approximately 3.5 miles long one-way. It is usually groomed only for diagonal stride skiing. The 1-kilometer HPER course is groomed for both stride and skate skiing.

Last year, cooperation brought success in the form of a successful grant proposal to buy grooming equipment.

BEquipment is key. It makes all the difference,C said Macfarlane.

Kevin Kobe, campus recreation director and NU member, described the grant-funded Ginzu grooming machine, delivered only last week: BBasically a tow-behind machine with two motors. One controls steel tines operated by a switch. They can be raised and lowered by the operator. Behind that, there is a rubber mat, which puts down the firm corduroy surface. Behind that is the track-setter. It can be raised or lowered by the operator. Lowering it sets a smooth track for classic kick and glide Nordic skiing. Raising it leaves an untracked corduroy so skiers can maintain stability on a downhill.C

Kobe mused on the legwork behind the trail system.

BWhen I go somewhere with nice trails, I think about the 20 years of work it took to get them there,C he said. BThe work will pay off, but it?s a lot to do. We started with a grooming committee. But the grooming is just one part. There?s getting the permit, the equipment, and the signs; putting up the signs; using sensing equipment to gauge distances accurately. Just getting the grant was probably 200 hours between four or five of us.C

The Sink Hollow ski trail complex, though, is a promising start.

BSink Hollow is the ultimate place,C he said. BIt has woods, meadows, hills, flats. It?s the right aspect, not south-facingC where the snow melts and freezes, making for a crusty cruise. BMostly north facing away from the sun.C

Besides beautiful terrain, the Sink Hollow area is close to electricity and phone lines, required if a Nordic center building is constructed sometime in the future. Not too far from the population it serves, the Sink Hollow site accommodates Nordic trails that are long enough to make the travel worthwhile.

BIf trails are longer, people can come up for half a day with the kids,C noted Kobe, who enjoys skiing with his family.

Another advantage of the Sink Hollow site is what isn?t there.

BSink Hollow hasn?t traditionally been a snowmobile trail,C he said.

Although snowmobilers often use the Beaver Creek trail, which parallels Sink Hollow, a ridge runs between the two.

BOnce you get back in a little, you can?t even hear the snowmobiles,C Sammie Macfarlane said.

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On the Net:

Nordic United, www.nordicunited.org

USU Outdoor Recreation Center, www.usu.edu/orc

Utah Avalanche Center, www.avalanche.org

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