On Monday the 18th of December, Sego Loop at Park Creek was declared free from downfall from end to end with over 100 trees pulled from the trail that day. Additional grooming to clean up the trail before expected overnight snow is planned for Tuesday, the nineteenth. Many thanks go out to to renowned woodsman and legendary figure, Rob Beck, Adam, the first man at Park Creek and Daniel, master sawyer and forest server, who all worked on this major project. At Alturas Lake, the Trail to the Lake as far as the bridge, Over the Hill, Wapiti, Sheep Thrills, South Loop and North Cabin were all groomed on Monday. The Ginzu groomer was used for the first time this season and will be moved across the creek to put finishing touches on the trail to the lake on Tuesday. Some sagebrush on the trail by highway 75 was trimmed and snow was shoveled on bare spots to make the first two hundred yards appear a bit less scary.
On Thursday, December 14th, international monkey day, the ski trail to Alturas Lake was groomed on through the last jumble of trees and to the lakeshore where a million bouquets of feathery ice crystals festooned the frozen surface. Sun and ice joined in an otherworldly song that filled the air with a zinging pinging swooshing tune. The packed trail to the lake was graded flat and wide on Friday and should be great for skating and flat trackers. Wapiti still has grassy areas and some boulders on the front half – not recommended, back half ok, North Cabin is graded but sort of rough and bumpy in spots, Sheep Thrills – graded but rough, and the first stretch of trail from Highway 75 to the trees – ridiculously bare! Don’t let the sagebrush scare you away. At Park Creek, all trails except for Sego were groomed and work to remove the downed trees on Sego made some progress on Friday. Since there are still so many trees across the trail there we are thrilled to have scheduled Rob Beck’s tree service to start clearing there on Monday.
At the Alturas Lake ski trails, old groomer Davinius awoke to a surprising sight on the morning of December 13th. Two dozen Evening Grosbeaks were pecking away at the seeds in front of his snow cave home as a light snow filtered down from the grey sky. It wasn’t much but even a little new snow will help to cover the sage brush still popping through that first section of trail from the highway to the trees. It might even fill in the ungulate hoof prints peppering sections of Sheep Thrills. Other than that, some stretches of Alturas trails were packed, flat and not half bad for skating and touring. Several intrepid skiers had left behind skate tracks that looked pretty good.
The Trail to Alturas Lake has been groomed to within a quarter mile of the lake shore and Davinius was hoping to get through the last jumbles of swamp ice and downed trees with another day or two of work. On Tuesday, the freezing lake was singing and making loud bleeping, burping and booming noises in the late afternoon sun. At the Park Creek Ski Trails there is a bit more snow than at Alturas and some decent skiing can be had. New groomer and first man Adam worked on Monday to repair the Park Creek bridge and he was hoping to touch up existing trails with the roller and drag on Tuesday. This coming Friday, Daniel and Adam are planning to clear windfall from blocked Sego trail and pack it out for grooming.
On December 8th, the Roman poet Horace was born in the year 65 BC. This year, December 8th is also the day that the Sawtooth Ski Club’s famous annual meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the Sawtooth Hotel and the first day that the Sawtooth ski trails at Park Creek and Alturas Lake are somewhat groomed. Thus, we celebrate with these words from Horace’s first ode “Nunc est bibendum, nunc pede libero pulsanda tellus”, loosely translated “Now is the time for drinking, now the time to dance footloose upon the earth, kicking and gliding across the snow.” Unfortunately snow is still in very short supply in open meadows at the two ski areas. At Park Creek the best option would be the Dry Creek road trail section. Camas is not too bad, Shooting Star needs another 3″ of snow and is hummocky and wet in spots. At Alturas, most of the trails to the east of the creek received an initial rolling, but the first open meadows of sagebrush are so bushy and snow-bare that they will no doubt deter anyone looking for quality skiing. Right now, skiing at the two areas is best suited for those who might desire an early season communion with nature but wouldn’t mind encountering some stumps, boulders, sage colonies, soggy bottoms and dirt smears on the clearly rustic trails.