by Paul Tomas
In past years local Nordic skiers may have noticed an abundance of Snow-Cat breakdowns along the ski trails. These breakdowns would require many hours to recover the Snow-Cat or to haul equipment to where it was broken down, to fix it in place. Breakdowns on Snow-Cats could also put the machines out of service for several days, depending on the extensiveness of the damage and would take one of two of our groomers off the trail, leaving some trails not groomed.
Those days are now gone thankfully. New Snow-Cats have been purchased for the Lake Wenatchee Area Non-motorized Snow-Parks, a 2017 Piston Bully 100 and a 2021 Piston Bully 100. These machines are incredibly sophisticated and have next generation level of performance. One has already been delivered to the park and the other is currently in transit. A holiday gift if I ever heard of one.
Our previous long-standing operators have left the grooming realm for other aspirations. This left us with no equipment operators for the upcoming season. We are currently in the process of hiring 2 new operators and will be training them throughout the winter season. This is where skiers may see some trails at varying levels of quality. The new machines, though they are superb, has a learning curve to them. Sitting in one of these will make one feel they have just jumped into a fighter jet. That being said, to create enjoyable trails is not that hard, to perfect them takes much practice.
The loss of our previous groomers has inspired us at the park to train a couple permanent employees on these machines. That way, if a groomer calls in sick or there comes a year where we don’t have a groomer at all, skiers won’t notice this occurrence as our cross-trained employees are behind the wheel. This winter we will be conducting cross-training for these employees on days that typically don’t see grooming, so not to interfere with the newly hired employee’s training. A bonus given to the skiers, an extra day or two with groomed XC trails.
Beyond the new equipment and new personnel, we have been working on the 50km worth of XC ski trails. We conducted trail flattening on side slopped areas like at the Chiwawa See N Ski trail. We have been clearing vegetation in sections where growth was encroaching onto the trail. This took place at many locations, such as Chiwawa, Nason Ridge, and the connector routes to and from Nason Ridge Sno-Park. We have called in the Arbor Crew to take down potentially hazardous trees that were dead and standing along the North Park, South Park, Chiwawa trails, as well as the connector route to the Nason Ridge Sno-Park. Earlier in the year we had a road grader flatten the Nason Ridge trail to allow for a more comfortable ski up to the ridge line. The road grader also took care of some of the drainage issues we have been seeing in the previous years. Additionally, the road grader flattened the Chiwawa Sno-Park Parking Lot, getting rid of those nasty bumper scraping potholes. During last spring we recruited a group of WCC workers, and in conjunction with our employees, opened up the forest along the North River Trail of Lake Wenatchee North Sno-Park allowing for more views and hopefully more snow depth at the lake front. Some leveling of the trail occurred here as well with using the downed trees as retention to keep the trails flat.
Over the last two winter seasons we have been working on our 12-mile snowshoe system, particularly at Lake Wenatchee North and South Sno-Parks, to include the interconnected system within Kahler Glen Golf Course. With the help of amazing Kahler Glen volunteers we have been placing new easy to navigate snowshoe signs, to show the way to the visitor’s preferred destination. While this work is mostly done, some refinement will occur this winter season.
New trail side maps for the XC ski trails are currently being processed and will be rolled out on the trails later in the season.
After a COVID hiatus, our interpretive program has returned. Lake Wenatchee Sno-Park is offering a First Day Guided Snowshoe Hike along the North shore of Lake Wenatchee on Jan 1, 2022, and a Guided Snowshoe hike every Saturday after that until March.
In attempt to reduce waste of paper products we have also recorded all of our snowshoe and XC Ski trails, and imported them on AllTrails, allowing easier route finding and less paper maps being used.
Over the last year we have been improving our signage throughout the park. We have posted signs at the entrance of the Sno-Parks that showcase what activities are and are not allowed. This is a convenience for the visitor and park staff. It gives the visitor immediate information on what they can expect to find at any given Sno-Park. These signs also give the visitor the opportunity to adjust their plan prior to parking and getting out of their vehicle. These signs are not only for compliance, but it clears up confusion. Example given, at the entrance of the South Park. Many people will stop at the intersection to determine which Sno-Park they need to go to for the sled hill. At this intersection we placed an easy-to-understand sign (which has reduced confusion and congestion on the county thoroughfare) which has completely stopped the need for the visitor to weigh options on where to go. Additionally, we have added new Trail Status signs on bulletin boards that were a much needed improvement over our old system.
In a typical season we will be grooming five days a week. Grooming of all trails takes place on Sat & Sun. Mon & Thu we do the core trails, this includes Lake Wenatchee North Sno-Park, Lower Nason, and arterial trails in Lake Wenatchee South and Kahler Glen networks. Fridays, we do all trails, except Upper Nason Ridge. We allow Tuesdays and Wednesdays for preventative maintenance on the machines. This year, we’ll be keeping this schedule unless otherwise posted on our grooming report. However, like stated earlier, on a Tuesday or Wednesday we will have an extra day of limited grooming for training purposes. Visitors can keep up to date by subscribing to our daily grooming report by emailing the park at Lake.Wenatchee@parks.wa.gov. This report is also posted daily here or here. At these URL’s you may also check snow conditions via our “Trail View” webcam.
We also have amazing volunteer groups at the Lake Wenatchee Area. They are an integral part of our operations and without them, Lake Wenatchee Sno-Parks would not be what they are today. Kahler Glen Brush Cutters, every year go out on Nason Ridge trails to cut back the rapidly growing Ceanothus brush to keep the trails clean and well-manicured, they let us know when there are larger issues that require our attention. Other volunteers like, Mary and Tim Gallagher help keep the snowshoe routes stomped and marked within Kahler Glen. Mary and Tim volunteer their expertise and help spread their passion of nature by helping out on our guided snowshoe hikes, they are a true joy to work with. Lloyd & Cathy Brodniak and their group of volunteers, clear the rest of our 12 miles of snowshoe trails from the previous seasons growth and deadfall. They mark all the trails with blue ribbon and put up maps at the Chiwawa Sno-Park. To top it all off, they clean it all up after the snow recedes and the season is over. Lloyd has offered about 30 years to this area and was among the original USFS crew that set up the Chiwawa trail system when it was under USFS management. Lloyd also goes further and manually grooms a bypass route over a certain steep section of trail on Squirrell Run at the Chiwawa Sno-Park. This means he straps on and pulls behind him a drag sled filled with weights to bring visitors an alternate route up a hard section of trail. The volunteers in this area help keep our systems alive and they show so much passion and care for the area. Their passion is extremely contagious and only makes us want to keep finding ways to improve the trails and the Sno-Park system so that all Washingtonians can continue to connect with their natural heritage and create lasting memories while recreating in the winter.