Frost is entering the ground, conditions are good for hiking and fat tire biking. Many trails are bare, shaded areas have snow cover measuring 1/2"-1" or more.
November 29: flurries
We usually start grooming the ski trail some time in early December as the deer gun hunts wind down. It's all very weather dependent, we need snow.
Winter 2019-20 started early.
10+ inches of heavy snow November 27, 7+ inches of heavy snow November 30, 4+ inches of dense snow December 9, 2.5 inches of light snow December 12. Groomers had their hands full throughout December. This made for very good skiing over the Christmas and New Year Holidays. January added 14" of snow in generally light snow falls. February was dry, only 5" of snow. We had only one major rain event (1.5" of rain December 28), and the rain was absorbed into the abundant base. Trails were in great shape at Birkie time. Then warm weather moved in a week after the Birkie. The last grooming was March 13, but we were able to enjoy decent skiing into the beginning of April. All thanks to the big snows in late November.
We groomed a total of 57 times this past winter. Here’s the breakdown: once in November, 18 times in December, 19 times in January, 16 times in February, and 3 times in March.
Our head groomer and his crew were very willing to use our rollers - both of our rollers were used more this past winter than at any time in the past. As a result, this past winter the trails were groomed wider, and the edges were more firm. Groomers were very willing to try different techniques, and performed far more evening grooming than at any time in the past. This allowed the grooming to set up by the time skiers arrived in the morning. The classic track was in generally good shape most of the winter - the groomers were responsive to input from some of our most enthusiastic classic skiers. Thank you groomers!
The ABR compaction drag (we call it the 'Blue Thing') also was used more frequently this past winter. It was especially helpful removing high spots in the center of the trail, and when the trails needed a quick light touch-up of the skate lane.
Logging along Rut Road kept us from grooming that part of the East Side Core Loop the entire winter. Toward the end of that logging operation, it also disrupted our access to the West Side using the usual East-West crossover trail. However, one of the real pluses this past winter was the newly permitted use of Excelsior Road on the West Side for grooming and skiing. In the middle of December, after the gun deer hunts were done, a berm was plowed to block off traffic at the east end of Excelsior Road. We then groomed the entire 3 km length of Excelsior Road, and skiers were uniformly thrilled with the results.
Overall, it was a fairly long winter with very good skiing and snowshoeing in the Blue Hills. We hope the following photos trigger some good memories.
We performed some long anticipated trail work today. Read on...
Several years ago, about 1 km of East Side ski trail was heavily damaged when a truck was driven on soft trails. The perp cut through a heavy chain securing a cable barrier, then drove 2/3 the distance from #2 to A1 before turning around at a muddy water crossing. What a mess! (Refer to map image below to get your bearings.)
Since that damage occurred, we've added more signage reminding visitors that the trails are non-motorized. Ever since that trail damage, we've been planning on replacing two cable barriers with more substantial gate barriers. Other trail maintenance issues received higher priority until we found the time today to install these gates.
The Rusk County Forestry department donated the gate materials -- in exchange for our volunteers supplying the concrete and labor.
A group of five of us set aside Sunday (November 17) as our gate work day. The weather forecast called for 1" of fresh snow and temps in the 30s.
We awakened to 2+ inches of wet snow. Not to be discouraged, we met at the warming house at 11 a.m and collectively identified spots for the gates, then went to work. This included:
Fun day sharing the work, we finished in about 3 hours. Glad we didn't let the weather get in the way. Relieved to find the grassy surface had prevented deep frost. Pleased to see the concrete set up so quickly - it should be solid before it has a chance to freeze.
We realize that barriers tend to keep out only the honest folks. The chosen gate locations will hopefully discourage trail damage, these new gates are more obvious and much safer than cables, and the gates visually are a nice addition.
Many thanks to our work crew of 5: Sam Behrends, Lori Larsen, Kent Meng, Tom Paulsen, and John Waldron. Special thanks to Sam for rounding up the concrete and many of the tools; and to John for braving slippery roads to trailer his tractor and power auger to/from the trailhead.
Picture(s) with this message were taken November 17, 2019.
This is it! This is what we work for during summer trail maintenance, and wait for as we watch the weather forecasts in November and December. The weather changed in late November, colder temps finally arrived and the very wet trails began freezing as we began grooming in early December. We started skiing December 10th after grooming some of the trails closest to the warming house. By mid December, cold weather allowed more grooming and we've enjoyed surprisingly good skiing for this early in the season.The weekend of December 23-26 (and the following week) became a groomer's challenge. We were all set to groom late the evening of December 23rd. That evening the Hills received 2" of very sticky snow, and the forecast called for lots of rain on December 25th. By group consensus, we decided to avoid grooming the December 23rd snowfall, let it sit and hope it would absorb the forecast rain. Mild temps all that weekend culminated in 0.7" rain the evening of Christmas Day, followed by falling temps and A MAJOR WINDSTORM on December 26th. We're glad we allowed the December 23rd snowfall to rest without grooming. It magically absorbed the December 25th rainfall. After the December 26th windstorm, temps fell the week of December 26th, and our groomers spent loads of hours clearing tree-falls and branches. And skiers helped by flicking and flicking and flicking the sticks. As the New Years weekend approached the trails were in good shape, and skiers from near and far marveled at the quality of the skiing in the Hills.
The annual fall banquet for the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc. (BHTA) was held Saturday, November 7th at Lehman's Supper Club in Rice Lake. While bidding on the numerous silent auction items, this group of silent sports enthusiasts enjoyed camaraderie, libations, great food, and Dr. Bob Inman's dynamic slide show presentation ("Wolverine Biology and Conservation") describing ground-breaking work applying GPS tracking in the study of wolverines. The GPS technology that Dr. Inman and his wife applied for the first time to wolverines revealed the amazing capacity of the species to move through rugged terrain and the vast multi-state scale over which conservation of wolverines must occur. After a delicious buffet meal, master of ceremonies (Patty McGown) turned the floor over to BHTA vice president Ron Jasperson who summarized the many significant events impacting the Blue Hills Trail this past year, including: the huge number of volunteers helping throughout the year; the tremendous all-season usefulness of the 2014 John Deere Gator with Camoplast tracks purchased spring of 2014; and a very good ski season during the winter of 2014-15 that attracted more 'out-of-the-area' skiers than ever. Ron reported the trails are in good shape as we head toward winter, and noted that fundraising this fall has been very successful. He was pleased to note that the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc. remains financially solid. To honor a few of our many volunteers, two special awards were presented: Patty McGown and Nels Curnow accepted the "2 Busy 2 Pee" traveling trophy (a porcelain urinal) honoring their numerous contributions of time and energy. Then Dave Olsen was honored for his many years maintaining the pit toilets - he received the golden clothespin award. Following Dr. Inman's presentation, prizes valued at more than $5000 were distributed to the attendees -- including Mark Bittner winning the raffle for the Spring Street Sports $250 gift card, and Erik Ostenso winning the raffle for the New Moon $250 gift card. Our many donors graciously give back to their communities -- when the opportunity arises, be sure to offer them a sincere thank you. Colder weather's overdue, get your skis ready!
A cold month of February is forgotten, pushed aside by an early March warm-up. However the great cross country skiing conditions the past couple months are well etched in skiers' memories. The Blue Hills microclimate was fortunate to receive adequate snowfall while nearby areas were snow starved. Temps skyrocketed beginning March 8, we looked at the weather forecast and then groomed one last time on March 11. Grooming equipment went to summer storage on March 13, and our skis did likewise. Here’s a bit of a recap:
A huge 'shout out' to our groomers. Once again, equipment break downs and mechanical problems were handled efficiently and never compromised the grooming. Thank you to our primary grooming team of Steve Gest, Jesse Wimer, & Adam Brockman for giving us great memories this winter of 2014-15! A sincere thank you to our diverse group of members, volunteers and supporters - your help this past year has been extremely rewarding.
Unbelievable! It keeps snowing, & snowing, & snowing! Accompanied by persistent cold temps (it hasn't been above freezing for 37 days; 28 of the past 31 days have been below zero), every snowfall adds to the last. Remember those mountainous snowbanks from your childhood winters? Don't let your kids forget this one. Once again, tip your hat to our groomers when you see them out working their magic. Conditions have been uniformly wonderful, our groomers have met this winter's challenges head on. And if you notice a huge divot next to the trail, that's one of our groomers working hard to push the margins. Even the most experienced groomer gets stuck periodically - then it's time to unhitch the grooming implement, extricate the snowmobile, back up to reconnect to the grooming implement, then off to create more corduroy and set more track. It requires continuous concentration, and lots of muscle - not as easy as it looks. The Birkie is just a few days away, invite your friends to ski the Hills while visiting the area. The beauty is contagious.
It looked like March would go out as a lamb, but Mother Nature sure fooled us! It kept snowing and snowing and snowing - topped off by a record setting May 2nd snowstorm that dropped 18 inches in the Hills!
Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house
We were able to enjoy a few more hours of fun skiing in the Blue Hills this morning. The weather forecast suggests we are done grooming for the winter of 2011-12.Here's a bit of a recap:
We owe a big thank you to our groomers. Equipment break downs and mechanical problems were handled efficiently & never compromised the grooming. Thank you to Dan Bartels, Steve Gest, & Jesse Wimer for capturing every available snowflake & saving the winter of 2011-12! It certainly was an unusual winter (warm & dry). Fortunately, we were lucky to receive just enough snow to enjoy fun conditions for most of 3 months. Welcoming the many happy skiers that traveled to find snow in the Blue Hills was very rewarding.
Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house
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