Midvalley nordic skiers to see boost in trail grooming
BASALT ” Falling snow and a rising numbers of cross-country skiers in the midvalley have spurred plans to enhance grooming of the Rio Grande Trail between Emma and Old Snowmass.
A grooming machine called a PistenBully will be parked in Basalt and regularly used to set classic and skating tracks, said Gary Tennenbaum, land steward for Pitkin County Open Space and Trails. One of the two PistenBullys possessed by the program was scheduled for replacement this year. Rather than get rid of the old groomer, open space and trails officials decided to dedicate it to the midvalley.
The growing midvalley population has created more demand for groomed cross-country ski trails in and around Basalt.
“The use in this area has skyrocketed,” said Tennenbaum. The last two winters have produced so much snow that the skiing has been ideal even in the midvalley “banana belt.”
Grooming is currently done by pulling a special implement behind a snowmobile, Tennenbaum said. The process essentially packs the snow, but doesn’t always create the greatest surface. The PistenBully tills the snow to create the superb surface found on upper valley nordic trails.
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Tennenbaum said the trails will be groomed soon after fresh snowfall and during dry spells when the surface gets scraped off. The tiller reconditions the snow so it creates a great trail even when there is a lack of snow, he said.
The town of Basalt is leasing space at Stott’s Mill, on the south side of Highway 82 near the high school, to store the PistenBully. It will be available for midvalley action possibly as soon as next week, Tennenbaum said.
The midvalley grooming will concentrate on the 4-mile stretch between the Basalt High School and a trailhead with parking in Old Snowmass. The 2-mile stretch between the high school and the old Emma schoolhouse also holds snow well and will be groomed, Tennenbaum said.
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