Friday, August 26, 2011

Help for xc ski trails in Albuquerque!!!

UNM ski coach and some local dedicated xc skiers in Albuquerque will be meeting with the forest service on Sept 9th to discuss getting USFS involved in having groomed xc ski trails in the area. It would help tremendously if those of you interested in having groomed xc ski trails available in Albuquerque could write in and/or call (contacts below) to the local forest service office. Specifically stressing advantages over backcountry/single track skiing would be most helpful because USFS there is under the impression that most users are actively AGAINST grooming and ONLY want backcountry skiing.
Do not worry, backcountry enthusiasts, adding groomed trail by no means limits back country skiing! One of the big plusses of groomed track for the entire ski community would be ease of skiing access for a larger cross-section of people. Groomed trails are safer, easily used by people of all ages and abilities (i.e. fewer broken legs!). They are an excellent way to introduce novices of all ages to xc skiing and can give additional outdoor opportunities for families, and groups such as class trips, groups of retirees and tourists. Basically, the main goal of groomed trails is to get more people to enjoy skiing!

Old timers, you guys should mention the level of traffic you saw back when there was groomed track on Sandia. I heard it was extremely popular!

Remember the meeting is on Sept 9th, so for most effect please write/call before then!
Please write or call your support for groomed trails to
Cid Morgan at or 505-281-3304 ext 117 (Cid is the district manager)
Kerry Wood 505-281-3304 ext 107

All opportunities for xc skiing are really opportunities for the local nordic culture growth and more fun snowtime for all!

Please email/call by Sept 9th if you can and encourage friends to do the same!

Monday, August 1, 2011

First Post-Fire SWNSC Trail Update

Well, it’s probably about time to update the club and friends on the current state of affairs regarding the SWNSC trails and the prospects for the upcoming ski season. While I wish I had more to say and promise, I do have a few bits of news and items to discuss. I’ve been trying to get more updates and information from the available sources, probably just as most of you all have as well.

First of all, I would like to thank Lynn Bjorklund of the Santa Fe National Forest for the work she has done and for keeping me informed as best she can. She also has to work with other agencies on not only the SWNSC / Canada Bonita trails, but many others in the area. I’m going to keep working with her as much as possible to ensure trail accessibility, safety, and quality. Hopefully, we can get started on some trail work and/or have some things taken care of by the BAER team to get recovery efforts rolling.

The first and most major problem is that a pretty good chunk of the trail system burned VERY badly. When I say “VERY” badly, I mean it got completely scorched and looks like vertical charcoal out there. There is a bit of an unsafe situation with potential downfall and of burned (and still burning) “root hollows,” where the ground might collapse where root systems burned below ground.

The first major tasks will be getting the hazards removed, then controlling the erosion. We also want to work toward getting some shade structures in place for winter. Not only will that be good for skiing, but also to help preserve the snow so that it won’t melt so rapidly thus will be helpful for vegetation recovery along with placement of erosion control and seeding.

With all of that, I have put in a quick proposal for the installation of a structural fence for safety and erosion control along those portions of the trail that burned badly. It has to be considered by the BAER team authorities, so we’re waiting to hear back on that.

Beyond that, there are other recovery efforts that will likely fall in the hands of the club members. There are numerous trees that need to be mitigated along the trail system, and there is a LOT of grade problems with the loss of the lower side trail structure where the fire burned out the lower side structure logs. These logs served as grade structures (and even as trail width themselves) and are now burned and gone. The trail now has an abrupt drop-off on the lower side where these are missing. A couple of other areas had full ramp structures holding up a good portion of trail to keep a big hole from forming in the winter – these also burned.

We also lost about 60 of our good bamboo poles that were used as markers out in the meadow areas during winter grooming. We will need to get those replaced somehow. Additionally, some of the wind-break fencing (for the entrance/exits to the meadows at points L and M) was burned and needs to be replaced.

In addition to the approximately 1km of trail that was completely scorched, almost ALL of the newly completed snowshoe trail system was destroyed. I don’t really have an answer for that, other than we’ll have to be creative in the next few years to find some sort of good alternative. I have one idea, but we’ll have to see how our initial recovery efforts go before proposing it.

Luckily, we did not suffer any “high-stakes” equipment loss, i.e. our grooming machines or grooming implements. That would have been devastating for sure. Also, although almost all areas of the trail system received burn damage, most of it still looks good and is intact. In a few years’ time, it will look pretty good and will recover quite nicely. The big Canada Bonita meadow received significant burns, but is already turning green with the rain.

I hope that somehow out of all of this, there will be some opportunities to add some nice sections of trail and get those severely damaged areas on the road to recovery quickly.

As soon as I hear back from the “agencies of authority” regarding our getting out to work on the trails, you will all be the first to know. I’m thinking of which projects to prioritize to get this next season in shape. There’s no doubt that we’ll have to deal with some adversity and be more understanding and flexible if we want to have some quality winter recreation.

I hope to update you on things very soon.

SWNSC President
PS see the post below for a further trail update from Lynn Bjorklund of USFS who is also SWNSC member.

More on the SWNSC Trail Update

This is a further update from Lynn Bjorklund of USFS and SWNSC club member in addition to the one from Clay posted above.
Here is a further update. The BAER team has approved a seeding and mulching treatment on that severely burned portion. We were limited to Barley grass only because it doesn't persist or form a rhizomatous structure. Apparently the delicate Jemez Mtn Salamandars can't pop up through a dense grass matt to breed. They spend most days underground and likely survived the fire. When they pop out to breed they likely won't like what they see, so breeding activities may not occur anyway. However, being a threatened and endangered species, there are stict regulations on what we can and can't do in their habitat. The seeding and mulching should occur this next week.
Also within the next couple of weeks the FS is contracting with a felling team to cut snags and hazard trees off the route. Quite a bit of snagging and trail clearing has already taken place. The hope is to get this safe enough to allow trail surface work and have it open to the public. I have put in a request for further funds to do the trail work as described below by Clay. The SWNS club would have a lot of say as to what should be done, and perhaps could even help. That is provided we get that funding. We are competing region wide with fires like the 500,000 Wallow fire in Arizona. I also have a request for a snow fence for the 1km of severely burned trail.

The fire closure order will likely come out next week. I was in disagreement with how it was presented. Since it is a legal document that covers such a huge area, the Forest wanted to keep it simple. Therefore they show all of the Forest around Los Alamos closed and then describe exceptions, which should include all of the unburned and unaffected trails. Know that as trails become safe after felling operations we likely may be able to open some up. Trails that are scheduled for hazard tree removal are the Canada Bonita trails (1st priority), Perimeter trail south of Quemazon, and the Guaje Ridge Trail from Pipeline to Mitchell. Trails that are truly unsafe and very difficult to traverse anyway are Water Canyon, Valle Canyon, upper Guaje Canyon, Knapp Trail, Los Alamos Canyon trail, and Caballo Mtn Trail. Pajarito Canyon and the Nail trail are not as bad, but still somewhat hazardous. If anyone does 'happen' to find themselves in these severe burned areas, be really heads up for trees that can fall. Some may look solid, but the roots or interior are burned out and they can fall over very quickly. On steep canyon slopes, big rocks can get dislodged and they roll down very fast and unpredictably. All this even if there isn't a thunderstorm or flash flood. Add that, and the dangers go up dramatically.

A tour with Clay and other SWNSC members is planned in the near future to discuss what it would take to get the area safe for winter operations or fall recreation events like the Pajarito Trail fest. Here is where the partership with the Forest Service could be good and bad. The bad meaning that the FS is obligated to be much more conservative in trying to protect public safety than most people may really want, especially with that cost share partnership. As Clay mentioned, understanding and flexibility would be the key operative words to recovery and restoration. I hope to do everything I can to help.