Blue Hills Trail CONDITIONS
Tuesday - morning update
Click here for helpful maps that show our open trails.
Spring is here, there's lots of snow remaining.
Yesterday morning (Monday), the classic track was fairly well defined, with a mild-moderate amount of litter deposited by brisk winds over the weekend. Good classic skiing if you can tolerate the trail litter. As a spur-of-the-moment decision, the skate lane on the modified East Side Core Loop was touched up early Monday morning and provided good skate skiing. The side trails on the East Side (and Excelsior Road on the West Side) also had good skate skiing Monday. Beautiful first day of Spring with temps reaching the upper 30s.
A very destructive mid December ice storm (visit our blog for photos etc) shut down our trails for a short time. Fortunately we've been able to open 60% of our East Side trails, and Excelsior Road is open on the West Side.
Snowshoers: the Ridges Snowshoe Trail is cleared of tree damage, we prefer you use that as your first option. If snowshoeing on the groomed ski trail, please snowshoe well to the side. Click here for a blog post regarding the new 'Highland Loop'.
Autumn 2022, loggers cut a large timber sale on the East Side in the vicinity of the Otter Slide and Far East trails (those trails are the furthest 'east' trails). This winter loggers are hauling those logs to market using a route to the east and mostly separate from the ski trails. Click here for a map showing the involved trails.
March 17: 1" from blustery snow showers in the evening
March 16: 1/4" rain, then 1" windblown snow
grooming & MOWING
Grooming Report / Plans: Click here to see maps of the open trails
March 20 (Monday morning): touched up the skate lane on the modified East Side Core Loop.
March 17 (Friday evening): groomed the skate deck on all the open trails, and set classic track on the frequently traveled trails.
First things first: packed powder conditions, skiing is great, especially in the classic track set this past weekend; and on the skate deck where touch up grooming was performed Tuesday evening (January 28th). Don't let the East Side logging operation scare you away. We are currently grooming 17 km of trails on the East Side, 9.6 km on the West Side. As an example, if you ski all the trails on the West Side, it'll add up to 14 km by the time you're done.
Snow Rollers, a pretty amazing natural phenomenon. We noticed one while skiing the Hemlock Canyon trail on Wednesday the 29th.
Here's our latest 'Gator Tale'. A true example of rolling with the punches...
- A few days ago we performed scheduled maintenance on our Gator. Oil change, check fluids, lube the Camoplast tracks, and check tightness of the hub bolts that secure the bearings and hold the tracks in place.
- Three of the four hub bearing bolts were a bit loose (that's why we check them). We removed and replaced two bolts.
- Shockingly, when removing the third bolt it snapped off. Now what??? (photos below show a partially removed bolt and washer on the left; snapped off bolt is shown on the right).
- We had access to the tools needed to extract the broken bolt. But we decided to enlist the help of a professional machinist from CPH Enterprises on County Hwy O, located just 3 miles away. With a bit of begging, one of their pros came out to the trailhead to help us out.
- These bolts are held in place using red Loctite. Removal of the broken bolt required drilling a hole in the center of the bolt, inserting an extractor (a special tool), and repeatedly heating the bolt with a torch while trying to extract it. The heat helps loosen the Loctite.
- After many attempts, the broken bolt seemed to move slightly - but at that point the extractor snapped off. Another 'Now What???' moment. Those might not have been the exact words we used.
- Next step? We were stuck. Late afternoon on Tuesday. Next step would require the use of a generator to weld a nut on the end of the broken bolt and use that nut to back out the bolt. This was set up for Wednesday morning.
- When cautiously trying to move the Gator from the shed to the parking lot on Wednesday morning, the bearing mechanism on the right rear track started shifting - which meant the entire hub assembly and track could fall off - with possible serious mechanical damage to various components.
- The crew of two that was working on the Gator on Wednesday was able to use several ratchet straps to secure the Camoplast track enough that it was moved to the parking lot.
- A nut was welded onto the end of the broken bolt; then with difficulty, the bolt was removed and replaced with new parts.
- The last challenge? Prior to the welding operation, the Gator battery needed to be disconnected by removing the positive lead. When doing that, the battery terminal broke off (a bit rusted). This meant a trip to Ladysmith to buy a new battery terminal (connector), then returning to the trailhead to repair the positive battery lead and tuck the Gator in the shed.
All set for some Friday evening grooming of the skate lane if all goes as planned. Should be a great weekend in the Hills!
When you're out enjoying a groomed ski trail, give special thanks to the groomers and volunteers that are so integral to cross country skiing on groomed trails.
Blue Hills Trail
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