How fleeting is perfection! Like the perfect snowman, like the lovely bloom of the thimbleberry, great ski trails can become just mediocre in a hurry. A rainstorm in February can ruin trails across the region. Or, in the case of Spirit Mountain's nordic trails, a re-engineering of the track setter on the groomer. The sign above is on their Charlie Banks 3K and refers to some on-ski incident with long-time groomer Denis Sauve. The "demise" I saw yesterday was in the grooming. With any luck it will be a short-term problem.
It reads like the latest political news: the groomer has gone too far to the right. Here's what happens when the groomed track is too far to either side: • Branches in the eyes. Limber branches of alder and hazel lean out over the trail. You can lean around them when you're going slow, but they whip you when you're going fast like you're a Finn in a sauna. Sisu!
• Whole trees in the trail. The old-growth maple trees at Spirit learned a century ago to lean into the open sunlight. They're still leaning, and occasionally the ski trail passes right by them. Can you lean out while you're skiing? If not, it's more than a snap in the eyes, it's a shoulder-dislocating body blow.
• Wipe-outs. There is no room outside the track to step out and make a tiny snowplow move. If you're going down a hill and the track turns left, you're out of luck. You didn't need the CSI crew to reenact this one: on almost every downhill there were holes in the snow where bodies careened off the track.
• Plunging poles. When the track is all the way to the right, your left pole always hits a firm plant on packed snow. Your right pole could go all the way through to the dirt in fluffy snow. Ouch!
Volunteers can help prune back those pesky branches. But only the person running the big grooming machine can move the tracksetter. Anyone know anyone at Spirit?