Thursday, December 26, 2013

Conditions Hanging In There 12-26-2013

I got up to the trails to ski just after noon today.  As usual, I ran the first parts through the burn / south-facing stuff, put the boots and skis on at Point B (the new one, closer to Point C), then was able to ski continuously up the upper tree trails, back down to Pt-M, and back into the trees.

At Pt-B, it's thin with some spots here and there, but not too bad.  The conditions generally range from "poor" to "good," depending on the stretch.  There are six bad spots, but I was able to pole through all of them, most of which are only a few feet long.  The "Rock" section is sketchy and I actually made it through on just one ski touching the snow.  There are also a few of the icy/dirty spots, but they're not long and easily passed through.  Otherwise, most of the skiing is surprisingly nice.

It hasn't been groomed, so it is what it is.  I thought it was pretty good stuff, considering.  The far upper part of the trail and inner meadow down to M is actually nice with some soft new snow still on top.

Here are two pictures.  The first one is at the lowest part of the "snow zone" at Pt-B, and the second one is the top of the meadow at the Caldera Fence.  Everything looks about like this, with some +/- sections throughout.

It would take only a modest storm, or even some easy shoveling in those 5 or 6 rough spots to really improve things.

I forgot to mention that I did leave two sleds at the rock (but need to leave a shovel with them) to haul snow to the thin spots.  It really works -- we need an "adopt-a-bare-spot" program!  I'll take care of the section around the Rock myself... =)

Be careful if you do get out, but generally, it's nice where it's nice and I think it's still worth the trip up.  Plus, I've been able to stay in uphill/downhill jogging shape!

Happy Holidays.

At Pt-B (or so) just where the snow gets contiuous (at "Clay's Cutoff")

Looking east down the meadow from the top - the meadow trail is really nice still

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

More on Sandia Peak ski tracks

re: some photos courtesy of Rich Besser

Monday, December 23, 2013

Sandia Peak skiing (very good classic)

Dec 23rd email from Fredrik: 

Hi Sandia Peak Skiers,
This morning I groomed and set a classical track on all trails on the map attached.  Around 5 inches of powder and cold snow.  Great skiing up there so have fun.   If you enjoy the tracks and like the grooming, please consider donating a small amount to the UNM Ski Team on 
I have received one very generous donation so far and I am in the process of ordering some grooming equipment that will make the trails even better.  I also put up some signs so maybe a couple of people will walk on the side, instead of right in the track.
I will post updates on my grooming on the University of New Mexico Facebook site in the future.  Today’s grooming will be the last for a while.  I am taking the team to Utah and Montana in early January and I will not be back until the 19th.  After that we will put in some hours again to get the trails better.  The best way you can help to make the grooming easier for me when I get back is to shovel snow from the upper side to the lower side of the trail.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Fredrik Landstedt
Head Coach UNM Ski Team"

see map below for trails groomed:  

(to get to the groomed trails either take the Sandia Peak tram to the top and enter on the tram service road (sw corner of loop) or take the crest hwy to either the 10K  or Ellis


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Grooming Report, December 19, 2013

We had some new guys volunteer up for grooming, so last night we went out for grooming lessons.  I forget how tough it can be at first, but all of them seemed to catch on pretty well, and actually enjoy it...I think.

Probably to their dismay, they were also wrangled into doing a little bit of shoveling in a few very thin spots.  The weather isn't cooperating very well, so a few short sections (all on the skiable loop above the burn) of the trail have taken a beating this week.  So, we shoveled quite a bit in those short sections, mostly around the "Rock."

While it is not a very pretty "groom" job, parts are still probably pretty nice.  We have maybe one more week of decent skiing if it doesn't snow.  If it doesn't snow, then it'll be back to rock-bottom, even on the upper loop.  Lots of the classic track got wiped out, so don't expect much there if you go classic ski.

Of course, the burn area is full of bare ground, so you'll have to hike through all that until past point "B" or so.  The lower road is only skiable past the burn (past that big hill), and then only to about Point "O".  The steep "bypass trail" from Pt. "O" to the lower meadow is barely skiable, and then that only dumps you out to the cooked-out lower meadow.  I suggest skiing back and forth on the skiable part of the lower road, then taking the "Clay's Cut-off" trail back up to the upper trail.  There is also skiable trail from Pt. "O" to "F," which is the end of the lower road up to the switchback on TJ's.

Get it while it lasts, and pray for snow!


Friday, December 13, 2013

Sandia Peak skiing

Fredrik (UNM) groomed quite a long loop up near Ellis and 10K.  Primarily groomed for classic but skatable in sections.  We still need help on some sections of trails with shoveling.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sandia Peak skiing

UNM has groomed the tram service rd. & the UNM loops for classic skiing.  The road is skatable.


Friday, December 6, 2013

More Sandia skiing

Fredrik intends to groom again on Monday.  Again need help shoveling to level trails for grooming. So far haven't had any.  Fredrik will be encouraged to maintain better trails if he can get help, both trail work and  monetary wise; so please help or donate at web site if you're interested in better grooming at Sandia. Fredrik has to transport his equipment all the way up the mountain from UNM each time he grooms since USFS and Sandia Peak aren't willing to let UNM have a safe place (any place actually) to keep a snow machine up there ( there is dismal lack of support from Cibola National Forest for nordic skiing). 


Sandia Peak skiing

Fredrik groomed the service road and the UNM loops Tuesday Dec 2 and now we have additional several inches, very cold.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

sandia peak skiing & help needed

Fredrik (UNM ski coach) is planning on grooming once the team gets back from Yellowstone.  There's nearly 2' of snow on the trails.  It would be a great help to Fredrik's grooming efforts if some levelling of the trails could be done; in this case shoveling snow to level out the trails (side to side) due to slope of mountain and snowshoeing to prepack are both needed.  The upper UNM loop has 1st priority I think, then the lower trail (below the service road).  Please contact me if you can help (

Friday, November 22, 2013

Trail work & SNOW(!) update 11-22-2013

I had to go up to pull down the Ditch Witch last night, but unfortunately found a number of new trees down (again!).  One pretty big one fell onto the fencing on the front hill and sort of crushed it.  It was blocking the path for the Ditch Witch, so I attempted to move it, but it being dark and all, ran into a little problem with the slick (lack of) traction.  I twisted a track off the side and it did another slow topple with the tree still in the bucket.

I'm learning my lesson with how that thing can do this with an uneven load pushing up high.  I don't think this would have happened in the day time, but am not so sure.  I shouldn't have pushed it out so far, but the main problem was the lack of traction.

Also, there was quite a bit of new snow, all very heavy and wet.  That was before it really began to snow, which was about when I left around 7:30pm.  Lots of the trails were already skiable!  I'm sure they're quite skiable now, but some sections will still be very thin with the big rocks.

Here are some pics of what it looked like last night before the storm hit:

Good snow near the trailhead.  Several people still trying to ride bikes up there, plus some skiers

Fencing is working well already

Lots of the trails were quite well covered

Trees down on Dave's

Tree down on Dave's up near the steep hill and the big "rock" section

A live spruce down on TJ's

From the other angle

That infamous root ball

I still had a section of tree to remove on the trails that I had forgotten about, so I got to it before it was too late

The big tree down on the fence.  It was awkward

A little better shot

The aftermath of my struggle to get it over the fence.  Bad move!

The underside of the poor Ditch Witch.  Gotta head up today to pull back up and get it off the hill. 


Here is a quick report on some trail work I got to on Saturday, November 9, 2013.  It was a nice day and there were quite a number of little "punchlist" items that hadn't been hit yet, so I just made a plan to go up with Kermit and hit a number of them all at once.  One thing I wasn't sure of was whether I'd be able to take the Ditch Witch up to one of the other sections of trail that needs a bit of a rebuild, as that type of work takes a lot of time and sort of consumes the entire work session.

So, I decided against starting with that, and just going out to cut the remaining areas that I know have bad aspen shoots.  I found some parts of the lower road still with a few, but then made up to the meadow, and that is where the fun really began.  We always seem to work just on the tree trails and skip working in the meadow, which is always not good because as soon as the snow flies, it is very hard to work on that stuff.

As you can see from the pics, there were still some trees down in the meadow sections, plus LOADS of aspen shoots.  Our new trail cutter blew out a bearing before we were able to hit it with that thing, so I had to do it "by hand."  By that, I mean that I used the clubs new motorized brush cutter (a Poulan trimmer thing).  It worked well, but is hard to start.  It did the job.

I also got the trees out of the meadow trail envelope.  When we did the tree cutting for the trailfest running races, we didn't get them cut the full width, so now was the time to do that.

Finally, I ran the tree trails and found a number of new trees down.  Some were large and I needed to wait for some help from Dave the next day.  Unfortunately, I also found a new HUGE tree down on TJ's that had just toppled over from the root ball.  It was large.  Luckily, it was right where the Ditch Witch was parked, so I didn't have to go far to move the carnage.

Unfortunately, it was a bit of overload for the Ditch Witch.  Once I got the root ball free from the ground (late in the day), it toppled out of the bucket and took the Ditch Witch down with it.  It is a "ride behind" version, so I just hopped off and had to watch it fall over.  It is too heavy to pull back up with Kermit, so Dave had to come with an arsenal of winches, chains and his tractor the next day.  It was a pretty big battle to get it back up on its tracks, but we were successful.  Here are some pics:

Already good snow in the meadow.  You can see the large number of large diameter aspen shoots!

A closer look at those aspen shoots

chopped down!

Still a lot of trees in the meadow trails

A few of these on the tree trails where the fire came through.  I have found these every time I've gone up there.

The big tree that came down on TJ's.  It consumed the big saw.

A closer look at the base near the root ball

This section of TJ's will look and ski completely differently now

Looking up the trail as we would ski toward the meadow

Luckily, I was able to use the Ditch Witch to move the big sections

Working on the root ball.

Back breaking work made a lot easier!

That was a big root ball

Root ball came out, Ditch Witch went down.  It was like pulling a very tough weed when the roots finally break free and sends you back on your butt!  Dave had to come up and help me get it back up.  It took some serious redneck engineering to get it back up.

Sandia peak skiing

As of Thursday (yesterday) there as about 4 to 6 inches of snow on the service road.  Did not hit a rock the entire length.  Must be significantly more than that today after the precip event last nite.
Fredrik plans to groom sometime soon after Dec 1.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sandia peak skiing

Probably can ski classic on the service road tomorrow. I did today with about 2" (with slow accumulation continuing) using some rock nowax  skis  and enjoyed myself.  It continued to snow likely until the rain stopped in Albuquerque (to between 7 & 8 pm).


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trail/Snow Fence Hanging and Nordic Ski Swap Nov 2-3!!

from Clay:

Hey everybody,

I am trying to reach out to as many folks as I can for the annual "hanging of the fence" up at the cross country ski trails, this weekend (November 2-3), and possibly another November 16-17.  Since the fire, we have a lot more area to cover and with a few more hands, the project goes exponentially faster.

All of the volunteer hours spent doing the work goes into our local volunteer cost-share challenge agreement with the Forest Service, which in turn helps us to qualify for trail construction/rehabilitation funds (hiking, mountain biking, etc.), not just for the Nordic trails...actually mostly NOT for the Nordic trails!

This is a relatively easy and accessible trail volunteer project, so we get those volunteer hours racked up nicely for stuff like this.

We will have a couple of folks leading/directing the work from the end of the Ski Pajarito parking lot.  The plan is to meet at 10:00 AM, pick up some zip ties and go up that first little hill to where the fencing is to be hung.

Some folks have also mentioned that we could host an impromptu Nordic Ski Swap.  I for one, have a lot of used xc ski gear that could be sold for cheap as a donation to the Southwest Nordic Ski Club.  So, bring some old gear to sell, or come look for some gear to purchase. The ski swap will be on SAT 1-3pm in a sunny spot on the parking lot part closest to Canada Bonita trailhead.

Why do we hang so much fencing you ask?  Well, the first kilometer or so of the trails are southeast facing, and without all those big trees shading it now, the snow melts even when it's below freezing.  With just a little bit of shade, it stays around and builds up a base.  This helps with the skiing of course, but also with the storage of water for an actual spring melt when flora and fauna need it, versus the premature winter meltdown.  

Why ask for more volunteers outside of the xc ski club?  Well, it's a strange thing.  We get more volunteers from outside the club, than from within it.  There are a few (very few, actually) folks who live here who are at the core of the volunteer group, but most of the xc ski club memberships are actually from folks who do not live here.  Plus, more people use the trails for activities other than xc skiing than for it.

Bring a variety of work/outside clothing, food and water.  It'll be fun and a beautiful day!  Hope to see you all there!!!

Monday, October 28, 2013

"Big ticket" items to help us with (or to lead!) in the next few weeks!!

From Clay:
You can see from the previous post below, a lot has been done and hopefully will make things nicer both in winter and summer.  There are still some "big ticket" items that we need help with.  Below is the list in order of priority:

1. Hange the fence!  
2. Cut aspen/locust shoots
3. Chainsaw out the remnants of old stumps still sitting in the trail (contact me about this)
4. Finish the inside walls of the equipment garage (we have a bad rodent problem =P  )

We hauled a lot of fencing up to Point A so that folks can start hanging it at their convenience.  I also dropped some off at the lower edge of the fencing that was never taken down last spring so that the project can begin there.  We have LOTs of ties in the shed.

We'll get the rest of the fencing hauled out into position as it goes up.  PLEASE help with this project if you can.  It might be best to have an organized day with a leader/organizer.  I am pretty swamped with a lot of things going on, so I'm hoping someone might take this project on.

Fencing at Point A ready and waiting to be hung up!

Trail Work Report and Pics for October 26-27, 2013

Well, the turnout has been light for the SWNSC trail work thus far, but things are still moving forward.  The club did get a new "trail cutter" brush cutting machine that has done a fine job in clearing out the incredible amount of aspen/locust/wild maple/rosehips, etc.  The thing took some assembly, but once put together and configured, Dave and I got it fired up.  He set it up to work on his tractor, which worked very well, but he did break a bolt in the main hitch, so he had to go to plan-B on connecting it.  He got most of the trail system cut, including cutting out the 2-dozen downed trees that were still blocking the lower road and the Point-O to M bypass.  He didn't make it up through that section of lower meadow, which still has a lot of aspen shoots to cut out.  We may have to hit that by hand.  See the new trail cutter in action below.  Click on the photos to make them larger.  Most of the trail system now looks like this!  Compare that to my post back in August of what the trails looked like then.  It's a HUGE difference!

Other areas of the trail still need some mop-up work with the hand brush-cutter where the big trail cutter didn't get (mainly the extreme edges in place, plus around big rocks).  The club also has a new Poulan hand brush-cutter, which we also got fired up and running yesterday.  I hit the zone from the trail head, out to where I was working on the burned ground grading problems on TJ's.

There were almost 50 trees down blocking the trails in various areas where the fire really burned hot and actually burned all the organic material in the ground, especially around the roots of the burned trees.  This has made the situation unstable for the bigger, top-heavy trees.  One problem is that when one comes down, they peel up the ground and the roots of the other trees around them, causing several to fall at once (see my last trail work blog post for some pics).

Another problem we had was where the ground burned at the lower edge of the trail.  There is an obvious strip along that north-facing hillside where the trail traverses several times where the fire burned the ground.  One of the worst areas affected was TJ's trail.  The edge of the trail was either burned away altogether, or had big craters or burned out ditch lines where a root burned, or had slumped away from the lack of vegetation keeping the ground from "oozing" after big precip events.  At any rate, the trail was not in great shape and needed some work.

As part of an agreement and assessment with the Forest Service, the SWNSC is able to go in and fix these areas using mechanized equipment.  This must be done after the temperatures are consistently below freezing, so that the Jemez Salamander has had time to burrow in for the winter.  We started the process of fixing the trail shape and improving the grading last year, focusing primarily on those areas of the front hill and from Point A out to the end of the severe burn (near Point C).  Now, we're going in and fixing these stretches on the upper trails that suffered this ground burn.  We worked on TJ's this past weekend, and I think it was a success.  Below are some pics of the work and a little bit of how it looked afterward.  I wish I had taken some "before" pics to compare, but it would be hard to tell unless you were able to see it in person.  If you get a chance, go see the "new" trail.  It is quite a bit different now!  There are so many grass roots, that in a year or two, we won't be able to tell that anything was done.  I will also do some reseeding work later.  Here are some random pictures.  It's best to go see it for yourself:

The Espanola Ranger District Ditch Witch just starting the work on TJ's Saturday morning

A lower section from a distance, mainly we just built the lower berm here with the trees that had fallen

After hanging it up on Saturday evening

Trees all cleared out on TJ's and with a few "cut-and-fill" sections

A closer look at the cleared areas with the smaller sections of grading

Dave had to cut the brush in here pretty heavily, then we regraded a short section right in there as well
This is the upper leg of TJ's where the damage was worst.  The cut-and-fill work is more evident here and the trail was rebuilt on the lower side.  The edge of the grass strip in the middle was where the damaged lower edge had been before the work.

Looking the other direction, again the lower edge of the grass strip in the middle was where the lower edge had burned away.

This little machine does a nice job without causing too much incidental damage.

This area needed a lot of work.

You can see that a lot has been done and hopefully will make things nicer both in winter and summer.  There are still some "big ticket" items that we need help with.  Below is the list in order of priority:

1. Hange the fence!  
2. Cut aspen/locust shoots
3. Chainsaw out the remnants of old stumps still sitting in the trail (contact me about this)
4. Finish the inside walls of the equipment garage (we have a bad rodent problem =P  )

We hauled a lot of fencing up to Point A so that folks can start hanging it at their convenience.  I also dropped some off at the lower edge of the fencing that was never taken down last spring so that the project can begin there.  We have LOTs of ties in the shed.

We'll get the rest of the fencing hauled out into position as it goes up.  PLEASE help with this project if you can.  It might be best to have an organized day with a leader/organizer.  I am pretty swamped with a lot of things going on, so I'm hoping someone might take this project on.

Fencing at Point A ready and waiting to be hung up!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fall 2013 Trail work photos (Part 1)

 Lots of work needed on the trails this year...same ol' story.  But, the good news is that the progress we've made in the past few years, despite the fire, is really starting to take shape.  The trails have remained in good shape and have skied well in the winter and recovered well during the spring/summer/fall months.  The difficult thing is that the trees that did get burnt, even in some of the "low intensity" areas, are becoming unstable and falling down with more frequency.  There were a lot of trees down, with multiple "cluster" snags coming down.  It was especially bad from the last switchback up to Point L.  Every few feet there were big clusters down that had some quite large trees.  These photos just don't do it justice!

We'll have more trail work days.  Mainly, we'll need a lot of help with the fencing.  We'll see how the aspen/brush cutting work can be handled as well.  The club had to purchase a new brush cutter/trail cutting mower thing that will hopefully handle the work much more quickly.  It just wasn't possible to do it "by hand" anymore.

Big cluster down just below Pt. L (near the meadow)

After we got one of the big clusters cut out and cleared off the trail

Another "after" picture.  What a mess there was!

TJ's had a lot of trees down, including this large spruce that was actually still alive.  It covered the main trail on TJ's, plus the E-P cutoff.

Saturday evening just after the sun had set.  Some snow could still be seen on the runs.  The trails look quite a bit different than last year at time, thanks to the rainy spell.

I don't know why these next pictures loaded sideways.  I had edited them before uploading them, but they remained sideways anyway...
Lots of limbing work to do before we could clear the big downfall

Lots of aspens have died and are now falling all over the place

Typical "snag" that blocked many sections of the upper trails

Each one took at least an hour or more to clear out