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 year...it 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...