The dogs days of summer may have arrived, but a dedicated group of Central Oregon Nordic Club volunteers are already gearing up for the winter ski season.
They’ve been busy walking area ski trails, replacing blue trail-marker diamonds, helping the Forest Service in its efforts to begin a mapping system with numbers for trail junctions, and clearing fallen trees and limbs from paths.
The club is trying to put more effort into these kinds of efforts, now that construction of the new Swampy Lakes shelter is completed, said CONC Vice President Susan Sullivan, who is coordinating work parties with Co-President Gary Kelley.
The hope is that more club members will pitch in to help, since they and other skiers will benefit when the snow flies.
“So far, we have completed trail markings improvements on the Nordeen, Ridge, Beginners and Swampy loops, as well as the new Shelter Tie and the Swampy Tie trails,” Susan reports. “We have efforts under way on trails at Vista Butte and Edison sno parks. We have upcoming plans to complete the Swede Loop and Flagline Tie.”
Workers are not only installing blue diamonds, but also trimming branches as necessary to ensure that the trail markers will be visible. They are putting diamonds on brackets that hold them away from trees, so markers will not be covered as quickly by snow after a big winter storm.
Meanwhile, the club is planning to install 62 junction numbers and 45 new junction signs at Swampy, Dutchman, Vista Butte and Edison sno parks, all before the snow flies.
Susan explains that the Forest Service is developing maps that will have signs with numbers at trail junctions. Then skiers can look at the number and a map, so they can more easily figure out where they are in the woods. Once Forest Service finalizes the maps, then CONC plans to pay for printing, as in the past, and actually install the junction signs.
“The snowshoe group also has a trail maintenance crew that will become active again in the fall before the snow flies,” she reports. “They will have their work cut out for themselves as well, as they plan to install diamonds with junction letters at all snowshoe junctions — using letters instead of numbers to avoid confusion with ski trails — and have 22 new signs to install as well.”
Wanted: A Few Good Men and Women
CONC is organizing a volunteer work crew every two weeks, typically on either a Tuesday or Wednesday, over the summer. The effort likely will increase to weekly work trips in autumn, when it’s time to start stocking shelters with firewood.
“Right now there are chain-saw restrictions, so we couldn’t cut wood anyway,” Susan says. The Forest Service often limits chain-saw cutting during the hot, dry season to reduce the potential for wildfires.
Meanwhile, some club members have been perambulating through the woods on their own, looking for needed improvements and scouting for fallen logs that are blocking trails. Sawyers say it’s easier to lug a chain saw into the woods before the snow flies rather than try to ski with the saws.
To volunteer, go to the volunteer link on the top of the CONC website’s home page. There is an e-mail address to sign up.
“Help is always welcome,” Susan says. “We try to make it fun.”
She emphasizes that volunteer help is welcome even if somebody can only sign up once or twice. She estimates that 15 to 20 different individuals have helped out at least once so far this summer, with roughly half a dozen regulars.
“It’s nice to have a bunch of volunteers so we have a pool of people when we need to get work done,” she says. “Whatever people can do is wonderful.”
One of the more dedicated regular volunteers – who asked not to be named so he would not get more recognition than the others – said that the personal satisfaction is just as rewarding as having well-marked ski trails once winter rolls around.
“When people volunteer, you stay plugged into the community and plugged into a great group of individuals who have a positive outlook on everything,” he said. “They are working hard to make things better. It’s a win-win situation.”
(Photos by Susan Sullivan and Al and Janet Matson)