Thursday, September 8, 2011

To Groom or Not To Groom (Sandia Peak)

Thanks to everyone who has written or called in to support groomed trail option on Sandia Peak! The meeting with USFS is tomorrow (Fri Sept 9th), so you can still call in or email today, tonight, tomorrow! Nothing long is necessary, just a quick "please groom!" email or vmail will help out!
Cid Morgan  (she is the district manager, will not be in meeting)
Wood, Kerry, (will be in meeting on this)
Heiar, Robert (will be in meeting on this)
Kerry Wood 505-281-3304 ext 107
Cid Morgan 505-281-3304 ext 117 (she is the district manager)
Below is the message sent in by SWNSC president, its a good one. I have a few more good ones I would like to post but am waiting to get authors' approvals :)


I am writing in regards to the debate over groomed cross-country skiing at the Nordic trails at Sandia Peak -- i.e. the "Service Road," the "Meadow Trail," and that lower trail that parallels the Service Road. I am, of course, writing in strong favor for winter trail grooming, for several reasons.

Currently, I serve as the chairman of the Southwest Nordic Ski Club, which now "serves" all of Northern New Mexico. We are a 501c3 organization that has been in existence for about 30 years. The club was officially created as a "junior" Nordic ski club in Los Alamos, but expanded to meet the demand of all Nordic skiers in and around Los Alamos. We are now the largest and most active ski club in the state. Our mission, as it has always been, is to promote all forms of Nordic skiing and snowshoeing, including back-country skiing and groomed trail skiing. We have worked very closely with the Espanola Ranger District (SFNF- through a Volunteer Cost-Share Agreement) for many years to develop a wonderful trail system that provides a safe and fun venue for groomed skiing (both skate and classical style). Additionally, we have developed wonderful snowshoe corridors and open meadow routes. The groomed trail system is adjacent to, and also serves as a portal to the various back-country skiing areas.

We promote all forms of Nordic skiing and hold clinics to any and all comers during the ski season. Our clinics draw many people from the various forms of xc skiing. The principles of Nordic skiing are common among the various forms. Our groomed trail system provides a consistent and safe opportunity for all xc skiers throughout the winter, even when conditions are unsafe for back-country skiing. Because of these opportunities, primarily the groomed trail system, our much smaller community draws FAR more xc skiers at any given time than the Sandia xc ski trails located very close to the Albuquerque metro!

It is quite conspicuous that large user groups (senior citizens groups, charter schools, clubs, etc.) from Albuquerque choose to make the 100 mile trek over skiing at Sandia. We have taken a trail user poll (twice) and on both occasions, the majority of our trail users came from Albuquerque! While we love the support that these Albuquerque trail users give to us, it is a bit sad that they have to drive all this way when there is a potential for a great venue right there in their back yard. We hear many complaints about the lack of quality on the Sandia xc ski trails, including for back-country skiing.

I myself have skied up at Sandia for many years and have noticed the general degradation of quality xc skiing over the years. I was actually introduced to Nordic skiing by a Norwegian on the UNM cross country ski team. The team once held many clinics at Sandia to introduce people to the sport and put back into the local xc skiing community. That motivated me to take the xc ski class at UNM, which was taught by the venerable Klaus Weber. Klaus is a "New Mexico" skiing legend who has taught many people, from all walks of life, to cross-country ski. This would not have been possible without the groomed trails.

On any winter weekend during the 1980s and early half of the 1990s, there were literally scores of xc skiers, using all types of xc skis. The grooming was accomplished as a collaborative effort that included the UNM ski coach (Don Christman), Klaus Weber, some volunteers, and often by Louis Abruzzo (Sandia Peak Ski Area), who was also a skate skiing enthusiast and would no doubt lend a vote of support if asked to do so.

I also recall quite a number of skiers who would xc ski at night after work during the week because the groomed trail made that possible. Because of the unique nature of Sandia xc ski trails, I learned to back-country ski on very skinny in-track skis and learned to appreciate both every time I went skiing there. I now teach those very same skills and principles to the juniors and beginning adult skiers we introduce to Nordic skiing.

You're probably aware that Eskimos and Innuits have many words for the various types of snow. There's a good reason for that and in New Mexico, we tend to have some crazy and unpredictable snow conditions. Many times, we will receive a nice dump of snow, only to have it turn to mash potatoes in a matter of days. This creates a very unsafe situation for back-country skiing. It pretty much eliminates the possibility for off-track skiing for all but the most capable and daring back-country skier. It is a fact that grooming preserves snow and makes skiing far safer in such conditions.

Lastly, and certainly not least, one of the most remarkable things I witnessed during my college years spent xc skiing at Sandia Peak, was the opportunity of xc skiing afforded to people with disabilities. I had seen people on sit-skis at downhill ski areas, but never realized the opportunity exists for Nordic skiing as well. In fact, it is a large and popular recreational opportunity for wheelchair-bound skiers. It is also popular for amputees and other types of disabilities. Since that first encounter, I have been fortunate to meet many people with disabilities whose lives have been enriched by the ability to enjoy the winter through xc skiing. Most recently, I've met a 65 year blind old woman who participates regularly at both national and world master's events by following the sound of a guide who skis in front of her. This is just not possible without grooming.

I hope you will take these anecdotes and issues into consideration during the decision-making process. We are not asking that every single trail be groomed...far from it. Back-country skiing is also an essential part of the xc skiing experience. We are just hoping that there is consideration for striking a REAL balance and for bringing back the opportunity of groomed/tracked xc skiing.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Respectfully yours,
Clay Moseley
Southwest Nordic Ski Club

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