You can tell snow season must be right around the corner because the first surefire sign of winter is occurring everyday now: Bearskin and Golden Eagle are trimming the trails.
Most skiers don’t realize how much work goes into maintaining our 70+ K of trails in the fall. Early in the fall we drive on all the trails, looking for fallen tress and giant limbs blocking the paths. It is not unusual for us to clear extremely large fallen pines and birch from the trails after a long windy summer. It would be nice if one pass would be enough, but our autumns are often very windy. Since the first time Bob and Quinn cleared all the fallen trees from the trail in early September, many more have gone down. It’s a constant battle.
Next, the long grass and little bushes that have grown up all summer within the trail need to be mowed down. In one summer a bushy little tree in the midst of the trail can grow 3 feet or more. Bearskin and Golden Eagle share a large “Tiger Mower,” similar to the type you might see mowing the roadsides along a highway. Running the mower always takes a great deal of concentration. The trail is studded with big rocks and fallen limbs — mowing here is very different from the type of trail mowing done at many cross-country ski areas where the trails are actually through grassy fields.
Mowing is too difficult on many areas of the trails, so for much of September and October we regularly send staff members out on the trails to trim by hand with a weed whip. Whoever does this job usually ends up with a few good “too close to a moose/bear/mystery wild animal” stories by the time the trimming is complete.
Boughs, branches and limbs from trees along the trails are constantly growing over and into the trail space. An overhanging branch that appears to be well out-of-the-way becomes an impediment when it’s loaded with snow or ice. It’s difficult to keep our trails from getting narrower over time. Our trail clearing crew for “Work Weekend” will walk the trails with nippers and saws, cutting back encroaching branches.
Everyone gets excited when the snow finally comes and the big grooming machines make the first runs on the ski trails. But by that time, Bearskin and Golden Eagle have been preparing the trails for many months.