Volunteers work to keep ski trails open
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — With a balanced mix of fresh ingredients, an experienced chef can surprise the palate and leave food lovers craving more.
Similarly, a seamstress with the right tools can add the most delicate of embroideries to the hem of an otherwise basic black dress.
For the avid cross-country skiers who spend hours every winter packing and preparing the local trails, their mission is much the same: to find the beauty and the possibility in something that otherwise seems ordinary.
At ski clubs throughout the region, there is a rich history of residents — many of them retired and avid skiers — working hard to keep the trails open each year, both for their own use and for use by younger skiers, whom they hope will one day take the helm and carry on the tradition.
“We can start under some pretty rough circumstances — in an area that may not appear to have much resource potential — and make something rather sophisticated and polished,” said John Schlosser, a classic skier who has been grooming the trails around New London for decades.
Schlosser said the best trail groomers know how to “outfox” the weather, and make the most out of worst-case scenarios. While ice storms cause the most destruction, often leaving downed power lines and trees, windstorms can wreak havoc, as well, and cause snow drifts that ruin freshly groomed trails, he said.
“It does help to anticipate any problems that you may run into and outflank those problems. It’s certainly a challenge,” Schlosser said. “It is sort of an art to figure out when to go out and pack the snow. Sometimes you have the real arctic kind, and you don’t want to over pack it. There are other times when you want to squeeze all the air out of the fluffier snow, but you have to be careful there, too.”
Schlosser works closely with other New London-area volunteers to ensure that the Pine Hill Ski Club’s 15 miles of trails are clear of downed trees, stumps and excess weeds by Thanksgiving in preparation for the first hearty snowfall. Those trails extend into Wilmot and Sutton as well, thanks to area property owners who granted the club, a nonprofit organization, permission to use the land.
“It’s a pleasure to see people enjoy the skiing — and a lot of them have been with us for a long time,” Schlosser said.
In Concord, a similar tradition lives on thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers who want to make sure their children have a place to ski and train.
The Capital City is home to three groomed cross-country ski trails at White Farm, Carter Hill Orchard and Beaver Meadow Golf Course. All are free to the public. White Farm and Carter Hill are groomed by volunteers who use equipment bought by the Capital Ski and Outing Club, famous in town for hosting the annual ski and skate sale.
Frank Muller has been grooming the cross-country ski trails in Concord for more than 20 years. He began when his children were about elementary-school aged, and since then has led efforts to boost community involvement.
“I wanted my kids to have an opportunity to be Nordic skiers,” Muller said, noting that many of the other volunteers have children who cross-country ski, too.
That includes Oliver Spencer, who began volunteering a few years ago when his son, Ollie, was on the cross-country ski team at Rundlett Middle School. Spencer, who is retired from the military, said he was looking for something to keep him busy, but also allow him to give back to the community.
As someone who taught cold weather warfare while in the military and has experience driving tractors and other farm machinery, he found grooming to be a perfect fit and test of his skills, he said.
“It’s a labor of love without a doubt,” Spencer said. “If you’ve ever cross-country skied and been on a nice trail, you know what I’m talking about. Those of us who do it take great pride and care in it.”
Spencer said there is a misconception that the snowmobile can “fly through the snow,” but not when the snow is deep and there is a groomer attached to the back.
“All of the sudden you’re on a nice track and then next thing you know you’re in snow above your waist and you have to unhitch the snowmobile,” he said. “And you better have a shovel. If not, you have to hike all the way back to the maintenance area. I’ve done it before when snow is up to my waist.”
For those who groom the area trails, all agreed that it is a challenge, but one that is accomplished with great pride.
“It’s really community involvement that makes it happen; it’s not about one person,” Muller said. “It’s such an incredible resource for the community and it would be a real shame if there weren’t people who could make it happen.”
Information from: Concord Monitor, http://www.concordmonitor.com