Wednesday, February 6, 2019

February 6, 2019 Trail Conditions and Grooming Report

Dang, sorry for the long delay in posting a trail conditions report.  We get busy with the SWNSki Kids program each week, and then there is a big time vacuum with keeping the grooming coordinated and stuff like that...not to mention the demands of a "regular" life with family, work, school stuff, etc.!  Whew, winter gets hectic!

We were gone for the Alley Loop events in Crested Butte last week/weekend.  The kids all did such a great job in their events, and it's very cool to see how they're becoming such accomplished and confident skiers.  Their hard work and dedication, plus all of the parents who have so enthusiastically gotten involved, has really paid off.  Our club is producing some future Nordic skiers, for sure!

OK, on to the trails and grooming report:

Our snow still looks great, with only some narrow/chunky stuff in the very sun-exposed areas like the front hill, and maybe one spot out near that "SunRock" section.  Otherwise, it's a good base that is holding up well to the warmer/humid conditions of late.  John Bernardin groomed last Friday, which kept things in shape for the weekend, so that set the trail up for hopefully some new snow.

New grooming hand, Casey, and I got up there last night for some new-groomer training, which is always a slow and laborious process, but he took to it well, having been a snowmobiler in Wisconsin.  He ran our big Viking snomo with our lightest trail drag (LiteGroomer for training), while I ran the Ranger UTV with the G2 groomer with the tiller down.  While the LiteGroomer didn't do a whole lot, we tinkered with it for quite a while to adjust it and get the razor bar down just right to get it to scarify the surface more.  It paid off, and started to look a lot better by the time we were finishing up a long, slow pass.  The G2 did a magnificent job, of course, but is a real chore to get through refrozen base for any machine.  We have to stop periodically to cool things off, even when it's below freezing.

It was just snowing oh so lightly, but not really adding up just yet (hopefully that changes today).  So, the skate/maneuvering lane is softer and smoother, but the classic tracks are not reset and were still icy and a bit washed out.  They need to be reset, for sure, but we didn't want to waste time/energy/money by working on that so hard if it's just going to snow and get filled up.  We'll get that done after it some point. 

There are plans to regroom before the weekend, so we should have a great weekend of nice conditions. 

Thanks for all of your support, and get out and enjoy these conditions!  Looks like an active month of storms is in store for this February.  It may be a bit warm, but hopefully, our snowpack will increase.


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Groomers report 1/15/2019

Trails have been rolled and packed as of today.  A big thanks to Chris Michel (CM Arbor Care) for taking on that whole task after the big storm.  It's quite an endeavor to break trail, then roll, then pack/groom.  He had a bit of an issue at the end of his session yesterday - he started in the early morning with the roller (which is made of black polyethylene) as the morning turned into a sunny day.  The lower part of the system is sun-exposed and the roller gets warmed up, creating ice that makes the new snow stick to it.  It "balled-up" and began to drag the snow in the trail, not roll over it.  He had to park it for the day, but he heroically went back up last night to finish the job! 

Logan Ott got out on Friday to groom things for the clinics and the weekend.  A huge thanks to him as well!  It's a hard ask to get folks to give up a Friday night, be out in the cold and dark and hard work environment, to get things in shape.  But, these are great volunteers with big hearts. 

We'll go up tonight to get things fully groomed, probably just in time for another round of snow, but at least it'll be more firm under there. 

We took a good group of SWNSC kids (about 10 kids!) to the Durango season series race #2 (Coke race series).  They were all so awesome and had a great time and experience.  We'll be taking them to the big JNQ (Junior National Qualifier) there in mid-February, so they got a good recon of the courses they'll be racing on for the big event.  It was a lot of driving on wintry roads, but we'll take it!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Conditions Report - 1/10/2019

We had the kid's group practices last evening, and it was humid/wet and a bit on the warm side.  The kids got a lesson in snow type variability, and a couple of them on waxable skis (the kick zone part) got to feel the challenge of wet conditions and how it forces very good kick mechanics.  The snow got saturated with its own moisture in many places, making for variable skiing.  Some areas still had cold, dry, powdery snow; some areas had wet/glazed snow, and some places were a little slushy.  Temps were in the low-30s, but strange things happen with ~100% humidity, which is not the usual situation around here. 

Once darkness set in and the temps lowered, those wet areas froze up, making for a hard-glaze.  It'll probably soften up a bit today, but be prepared for a mix of frozen glaze, mush, and dry powder.  Trails could use a bit of a re-groom, but we do not have a full team of volunteer groomers to cover it.  Something might happen Friday evening, and hopefully, we get some new snow.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Overall, the skiing was incredibly good last evening with the new grooming on the lower road and the meadows, with new track out there as well.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Lower Road & Meadows Regroomed 1/9/2019

Beautiful conditions continue here into the second week of January.  Last evening, groomers got out to clean up the Lower Road (a.k.a Guaje Canyon Trail 282, a.k.a. "multi-use" trail) and reset the track, and to go bust up those drifts out in the meadows from the little skiff of snow and load of wind that accompanied it the other day. 

Things continue to look good for nice conditions this weekend.  Be sure to catch Sanna and Lynn's clinics both Saturday and Sunday.  Check the SWNSC Facebook page for info and updates:

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Trail Report for January 8, 2019

I keep meaning to get a trail report out, but the "other" SWNSC reporter gets it posted up on FB more quickly.

Anyway, things are looking simply fantastic, and there's more winter weather in line to keep things nice for the foreseeable future.  Chris Michel (of CM ArborCare) has been so kind to help us out with grooming and spent a good deal of time getting on top of what hadn't been done after the New Year's Whopper, plus mixed in with the little 3"er from Sunday.  That one came with some wind, so there were drifts out in the meadow, which makes it really hard to groom and keep in shape.

We'll probably go bust those drifts up as much as possible this evening using the Ranger and the G2 groomer, both relatively new tools in our rag-tag fleet of grooming equipment.  The G2 is our newer Tidd-Tech groomer with the electrically activated (huge improvement over having to deal with all that back-breaking weight, and hand-smashing stuff by hand) grinder teeth and track-setter.  It is prone to electrical/mechanical breakdowns, mainly the actuator relays blinking out, but overall, it's such a huge improvement.

Our workhorse and very reliable snowmobile has thrown us for another uncharacteristic loop - the starter has failed, but we have one on order and so the "groomer staff" has a plan to get it replaced, which is not easy (SF PowerSports would have charged us $1,000+ to do the job), but doable.

So, go out and enjoy the skiing!  It is simply beautiful!

2009 Polaris Ranger with Tidd-Tech G2 Groomer in action, December 2018

Friday, January 4, 2019

Still Working on It! "Grooming" report 1/04/2019

Happy New Year!  While I'm back at work and juggling family life (with visitors), including some sick family members, we're still trying to get the trails fully groomed.  Plus, 50" plus is a lot!

We do not have a full-on snowcat, so anything over 2 feet of snow is a problem for us to groom until it gets tracked in by skiers/snowshoers, then just a machine towing nothing, then a roller, then a period of setup (let it densify, freeze, harden, etc.), then it can be groomed!  That simply takes a while to get done.  Combine some machine breakdown issues with all of that, and it doubles the time...add in volunteer groomer absences due to holiday stuff, and well, you get the idea.

Anyway, we do have some great guys working on it now, so hopefully we'll be fully in business by this weekend...just in time for another round of snow.  We'll take it, but it may take just a bit to get it all groomed.

Thank you to everyone for your memberships and donations!  It is helping to keep the machines running and the effort alive.  I think we're going to have a really great January, and hopefully entire winter cross-country ski season.

We'll keep this blog updated.

Pretty great conditions on the SWNSC xc ski trails this year!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2018/19 Holiday Miracle! (and machine issues, of course)

Haven't been keeping up with the trail conditions and grooming blog much this year.  Things have been super busy with life and family, fall trail work, then getting the machines back up and running this year.  Hopefully, the dust will settle and we'll be running more smoothly soon.

We're having some machine issues (surprise) and are slowly hacking through the NEW 50" or so we got on top of the previous two storms, which were also significant.  Our "new" Polaris Ranger is awesome in the snow, but it is not a new machine and has some bugs that needed to be ironed out since it had sat around in a dealership yard for quite a while.  With grooming, all machines show their skeletons in closet very quickly, and so that's what is happening now.  

Thankfully, our "ol' reliable," Kermit (1972 Cushman Trackster with modifications/replacement engine) is still running like a champ, just very slow.  It's limited on power and traction, but it manages if driven with care and expertise.  Our Yamaha Viking snomo is our "beast" machine, but has trouble in deep snow and drifts out in the side-sloping meadows.  It needs to have the meadow packed out a bit before being taken out.  I had taken it out the other day, before this storm, when the main relay/starter solenoid crapped out.  I had to hot-wire it and hold wires with a zip-tie to get it home.  The part should be here soon.

Many hours have been spent fixing stuff, with some auxiliary hours spent packing and grooming.  Hopefully that'll flip this week and we'll have it all groomed.

As of now, we had only managed to get the newly downed trees cut out, with a few track-packing (no groomers/rollers) passes, and a couple with the roller down the lower road and the meadow.  The upper tree trails are not groomed yet - only a single track-packing pass, so sorry for that.  Logan Ott is headed up to finish the rolling today, and maybe we'll groom some tonight.

Wow, what a storm!  I *think* that's the most single storm total I've seen since moving here 21 years ago.  The winter that followed the Cerro Grande fire (2000/01) was a bigger winter, and we had at least as much, if not more snow on the ground, but it didn't happen in one single storm.  It was a continuous stream of storms with very short breaks in between, and also cold temperatures.

Despite frustrating winters of late, there have been some good intervals in there.  Here's a quick run-down of winters going back to 2000/01:
2000/01 - this winter set the standard.  It snowed...A LOT, and it began in October, and continued into May. Plus, it was very cold.  We all got tired of snow that year, and it was just almost impossible to keep up with it.  During that time, we didn't open the "gate" at the beginning of the trailhead, and it just finally topped over it and we were able to drive the snowmobile/groomer, plus ski right over it.  It didn't emerge again until late April!

2001/02 - 02/03 - almost identical (lousy) winters.  We groomed, but the base never was all that good and both years were low-snow and kinda warm.

2003/04 - started off a little slow, but gained a LOT of momentum toward the middle/end of January and continued through May!  February was fantastic, with so much snow.

2004/05 - this was a warm and wet winter, but resulted in a very healthy, wet snow pack that stuck around until late April.  That year, we set the record with our latest day of regular season grooming...April 15.  Good crust skiing all April.  This was a great year.

2005/06 - this was the year we built the SWNSC shop, but it wasn't finished in time.  The winter was horrible, with hardly any snow, until very late.  It was chilly, but extremely dry.  We didn't really groom that year.

2006/07 - 2008/09 - this was a run of moderately OK winters.  None were super great, but there were some nice stretches in all of them.

2009/10 - this was a very good winter, that saw the snowpack build steadily and never suffer a long "thaw" stretch.  It wasn't any single storm that made it great, but rather a steady stream of storms with cold weather that kept the base solid and gave both town and the mountains a very good snowpack.  It was the last good winter for a while...until now.

10/11 - lousy winter.  Started off OK, but got warm and dry early.
11/12 - post Las Conchas winter.  This one started off really well, actually and we built up a base early, with cold weather.  It snowed sporadically after January, but at least we had a season.  The black soot on all of the burnt trees would slough off and get into the snow, causing the sun to melt it quickly down in the burn-affected areas
12/13 - lousy winter.  Not much snow, kinda warm.  Some skiing, but a shorter season.
13/14 - ditto
14/15 - this was an OK winter, with some nice periods.  It wasn't super-great, but was a little better than the others in this string of low-snow winters
15/16 - kinda lousy winter, some skiing, not a great year  
16/17 - This one had periods of good snow, but was pretty warm.  We did get a lot of snow up on the trails, but it was always followed by warm weather.  It rained a lot in town during the winter, so not a lot of snow built up below about 8,000'.
17/18 - the winter that never was.  There's nothing good about that was the worst on record.  We finally got some snow for about 2 weeks in late February, and we ceremonially groomed, but it never was a real winter.

2018/19 - WOOHOO!  Although, we had a rough stretch there in mid-December, but at least we had a little bit of a base.  We'll see how it goes for the rest of the season...

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Post-Mortem Recap of Winter 2017-18

Just for "keeping up the records," I'm posting a very brief description of the Winter of Discontent 2017-18.  In short, it sucked.  It was a record that was so far away from anything ever observed in over 125 years of weather data collection.  It didn't even amount to 10% of normal snowfall, and was incredibly warm.

We did manage to eek out about 2 weeks of skiing, with about one week of grooming...all in the last part of February.  I skied on the trails a total of 4 times, myself, and I would say that last time was pushing it and resulted in making my pair of rock skis even rockier.

It was too bad, as we had gotten the trails in pretty good shape and would have had a good season.

As I write this in November 2018, it looks like the winter of 2018-19 will be better...we'll keep our fingers crossed.  We have a new (to us) Polaris UTV that we're putting "snow tracks" on so that we don't have to suffer trying to drive Kermit, and will hopefully not have so many problems getting stuck while using the snowmobile (the Viking) out in the meadows after a windy storm. 

Thanks to all of the club volunteers!  Keep up with things via the Facebook site, but we will post more text here.  Think SNOW!!!

Monday, March 13, 2017

That's a Wrap (for winter 2016-17)

Well, the fat lady has finished her warm-up and is in a crescendo for the final aria of the season.

Despite (fairly accurate) predictions for a warmer and drier winter, we ended up having a halfway decent season.  It was very warm, but we got lucky with some of those storms that bulged far enough south and circled around enough to give us some very-much-needed snow.

Unfortunately, it was also warm pretty much all winter...and FAR TOO WINDY!  As such, it was always a challenge to stay on top of the grooming and tree clearing, then it would get too sunny and warm...and repeat.  What a challenge.

All in all, we did manage to get some good days of skiing, and as we speak, the upper meadow and portions of the upper tree trails are still quite skiable with some nice stretches.  But, there are now some open, bare patches that are growing by the day.  So, we're pulling the plug on any more grooming.  Also, lots of trees came down last week, so that is a mess still.  The lower road is still blocked by some of the carnage:

Some big trees came down across the front hill on March 6 

This one, just above Pt-J made a huge mess

So much carnage, that there became hardly anywhere to put the messes

Lots of work had to be done after work hours.  In March, that means that there is still some evening light...not the case in November, December, and January...
Thanks to all of you who helped in some way this year.  It's a huge effort, but we have great members and now, a lot of kids who are progressing and learning to be lifetime skiers and good citizens.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

City of Lakes Loppet Race Report

From our club  member Paul Gooris:

Just finished the Puoli Classic ("half marathon") at the City of Lakes Loppet in Minneapolis.  This year, City of Lakes hosted the AXCS Masters National Championships; next year they host the World Master Championships.  Being a dedicated mid-packer, the podium, let alone age group accolades are not on my ticket.  But it was fun to ski in such a large event (152 skiers in the Puoli), and meet skiers from across the country of all ages and abilities.  

In addition to the marathon and half marathon, there was a ski tour, skijoring events, crew ski (awarded to the leading fund raisers for the CoL Foundation, this a 50 meter dash with teams of 6 skiing together on 20 foot long skis), and youth age group races (see photos).  

And those are just the events I saw on Saturday; other events were held on Friday and Sunday.  Think of the crowds that attend local road marathons or the NM State Cross Country meet, and you'll have an idea of Nordic's following in the upper Midwest.

Matt Liebch (?sp), former Birkie winner, won the marathon race in roughly 1 hour, 15 minutes. That may seem like an extraordinarily fast time...but this brings me to the more serious and concerning part of my report.  The City of Lakes marathon and half marathon are traditionally point-to-point races that start in Theodore Wirth Park and end in downtown Minneapolis, being 42K and 21K respectively. This year, however, there has been very little snow in the Minneapolis area.  The courses had to be changed and confined to loops of mostly man-made snow within the Theo Wirth Park itself.   The marathon was 30-32K (so Matt's time is still screaming), and the half was 14-15K. 

Lack of snow has been a problem for several years, to the point where the City of Lakes Loppet Foundation has invested heavily in snowmaking.  Across the board, skiers were commenting on the shortage, and those from out-of-area, like myself, found it weird to think that there was more snow at home than in Minnesota.

While perusing the vendors and exhibits in the "big tent", I met a group that is trying to draw attention to our changing winters. Regardless of the cause, climate change is happening, and it is having an adverse impact on our sport as well as the rest of our lives.  If you are interested, check out Cool Planet Skiers at Their motto: Saving Winter for Future Generations.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Trail Conditions Report 1/23/2017

Finally!  The trails are completely groomed, with track set and the meadow all cleaned up.  It was a LOT of work, but a big thanks to everyone who went out to pack the edges and hills, etc.  That REALLY helped.

We were even able to add the additional 1km extension to the end of the meadow at the Caldera rim.  It's really nice.

Looks like more snow on the way.

Displaying KIMG1043.jpg
Setting track in the meadow

Friday, January 20, 2017

SWNSC Trails Update 1/19/2017

I haven't had a lot of time to keep the blog up to date with conditions, but I'll try to add some quick info more often.

As of today, we have a great base of snow, but with a lack of consistent grooming volunteers, it is not being groomed regularly.  That being said, we did get it bladed with a very soft track set on Tuesday night, then Dave Wykoff ran a pass with the roller yesterday morning, and today, Chuck Calef will be making some more passes with the "blade" groomer to go cut down the top crust and smooth things out after the 21" storm last weekend.  

It's supposed to snow overnight, so I will try to get up there in the morning to run the roller and see what things look like.  No guarantees that it'll be firm, so be ready for some good classical touring if it's still very soft.

We're still experiencing an inordinate amount of tree-fall.  It's taking away from our ability to dedicate time to the grooming.  Apologies for that.  Hopefully it subsides and we can get back to keeping the skiing in good shape!

Here's a picture of our new roller/compactor from YTS:

Friday, December 30, 2016

Sndia Peak trails groomed today

Chris Norton set classic tracks on the service rd and access rd below and re-groomed entire system for skating,  Great tracks as I did classic.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Grooming Report 2/24/2016 (Los Alamos)

Got up there in the evening and got things groomed, albeit without a classic track.  I had some issues with things, especially the unfortunate finding of more trees down.  Dang...I'm getting sick of that!

Things were superb this morning, with freshly groomed trails, 10 degrees F, and a beautiful sunrise over a fog-shrouded valley.  Conditions should hold OK until it gets warm over the weekend.

Forecasts look interesting after the middle of next week...we'll see...

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Trails "Pre" Grooming Report... 2/23/2016

I think we have received a short "stay" of execution on our ski season.  That was a better storm than was predicted for us, so I'll go up and see what can be done with the grooming.  I'll report back tomorrow.

In the meantime, skiing was still possible, albeit sloppy and slow, over the weekend.  It was crusty and bumpy before the thaw, then slow and slushy afterward.  There were actually some truly "bad" spots, although they were very short and could be "tip-toed" through.  One more week of that kind of tropical weather, and it would have been over.

We'll see now how things look.  It's supposed to warm up again over the weekend, then sort of flip flop.  I think the season is going to be week to week, day to day from here on out.  We just lost too much of the base to really rely on anything.  We'll keep it going as long as it's viable.

Lots of trees came down too, unfortunately.  I was going to groom, but ended up cutting out trees instead.

High winds last week brought down a number of trees.  Getting those removed was a chore and kept me from doing any grooming.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Los Alamos Trails Grooming Report 2/16/2016

Everything was groomed last evening (Monday evening).  It was just freezing up when I got started, so there are a few minor inconsistencies here and there, but overall the G2 groomer did an amazing job of erasing the substantial foot-traffic damage and smoothing things out.

I set a new classic track as well.

Beware of the sun-exposed front's starting to go in that really exposed section. We'll have to figure something out for that spot next year, as the shade fencing doesn't protect it as well as the other areas, although it does protect it some as evidenced by the fact that it is still there after these warm temps!  Anyway, it will likely make it a few more days, then be down to bare ground by the weekend =(  If only we could have had another stretch of storms...

Otherwise, the skiing is still fantastic on the rest of the system.  There are two or three odd spots in there, but they're very short.  Some of the system hasn't even transformed yet, so we're OK for a while yet.

Enjoy while you can.  Hopefully, we can weather this drought...

Beginning the grooming just below Point A (looking south toward Pajarito Mtn).  Note the nice track being set by the G2, and the heavy foot traffic damage that is VERY hard to get rid of once it's set during warm temperature =P

After the first round of track-setting, that sun-exposed area at Point A is still nice

Up at the top of the meadow, working on cooling the machine down.  It's a liquid-cooled machine that relies on snow "splashing" a cooling system in the drive-train, but with hard-pack, this doesn't occur.  So, the engine overheats frequently, especially while using the G2 groomer's renovator teeth down deep.  It pulls heavy and slow to clean up those post-holes and ruts.  In short, it is the hardest thing to do on the equipment.

Still some very nice sections in the system.  We'll keep grooming as long as there's decent coverage.   We have to resort to shoveling here and there, but it's supposed to turn back to winter by the end of the month.  Hopefully, with our grooming efforts, we'll still have that beautifully glorious skiing in March!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

New grooming report for Feb 14

From Chris:  " I caught the tram and started grooming around 4pm.    classic track that I set was best on access road and sections of lower trails.  service road had already hardened so there the track wasn't idea, a little shallow.  
I screened in the dark and had to keep on throwing snow on it to keep it heavy so it would dig in.   again, service road was pretty hard to scrape up anything ( but I did see the downhill groomers out with their lights as I was leaving at 7 so they might do the service road ).   most of the lower trails screened out pretty good, probably the only really hard spot was the upper meadow above the aspen grove and also the downhill along the woods at the very bottom of the lower meadow.
my guess is skating would be good 10 or 11 to 1pm.  but if they groomed the service road it would be rocking 9am.   I was up there last Saturday morning after the groomed it and it was like Lake Placid Olympic trails.   
classic skiing  I hate to say is not a continuous track but best would be lower trails, especially the access road and lower meadow trails all the way into the northern woods above the 10k parking lot.  
if we had that second piece of grooming equipment I could of done an amazing job tonight since it would of chewed up the snow and then smoothed it out.  the stuff we have is just using heavy weight to press done where as the new one would of broke it up and then smoothed it out.     anyways,  let get the donations going on that second piece so next year we wont have to give grooming reports since it will always be great.
I think I am going up tomorrow at 11.  if downhill groomed service road I will get it to the posts.   pray for snow to your god."

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Classic tracks

Tomorrow afternoon (late), Chris will try to set classic tracks on the entire trail system (including the service rd)

Grooming problems

From Chris:  "we have plenty of snow but unless we groom at 6 am or 7pm its just too much stress on the sled with these soft conditions and FRED FLINTSTONE grooming equipment we have for old snow.  ( one reason we need the second piece of grooming equipment besides the one we just got that is for new fallen snow. )   will groom when we can and post but until it cools down not the regular grooming we had earlier in the season.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Los Alamos Trails Groomed 2/12/2016

El Nino is turning into El Nada.  We're in the dreaded 4-Corners "Omega" blocking high pressure pattern...again.  So, that's why we're experiencing spring in February.  I just hope it doesn't confuse the apricot trees too much.  It's too late for the juniper trees.

Anyway, the good news is that the snow base is still very good, and that last storm was a real season-saver.  It was good, heavy snow, so it's holding up to this warm, dry stretch, at least so far.  Skiing was still good before regrooming, so it should be pretty good this weekend too.  The whole trail system received some love, with a new classic track set all the way around.  Get it while it's still good!

The foot traffic, unfortunately, really does a number when it's warm.  So, we'll try to keep things groomed out.  It's costly in terms of time and resources to keep that situation cleaned up.  There have been a number of folks who are ignoring the "ski only" designation on the upper trails too, which is a bummer.  Dog poop (a.k.a. "Brown Klister") is a killer too...

We'll keep trying to keep the trails maintained to bridge the gap to the next round of winter.  Hopefully, El Nino will come back and give us some nice late-season conditions.