Mountain Trails Foundation looks ahead to summer after ‘idyllic’ winter of snow
The season is almost over for cross-country skiing and winter biking. Some will be happy to see the end of snowfall and others won’t, but one thing is certain: The trails won’t be dry soon.
“When it comes to Round Valley this year and winter grooming, Mother Nature provided what can only be described as an idyllic year,” said Charlie Sturgis, executive director of the Mountain Trails Foundation, which grooms Round Valley for skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking as well as its normal summer activities.
The snow was frequently refreshed, the temperatures stayed cool but tolerable and, with the exception of some stronger-than-desired winds, Sturgis said the season could not have gone better for winter activities. The nonprofit added a position to its winter grooming team to keep up with demand for the trails, and Sturgis said the crew was able to dial in its equipment and give fat biking trails more attention than usual.
“I’m pretty sure this year will be the longest period of grooming ever,” he said on Wednesday.
Mountain Trails first started grooming Round Valley in 2008, and Sturgis said the only winter that challenges this one is the 2010-2011 season. The snowfall in 2016-2017 was formidable, Sturgis said, but it didn’t linger like this year’s, which the National Weather Service estimates at 140 percent above average snowpack.
The nonprofit plans to call this weekend, April 13 and 14, its last winter-grooming session of the season.
Sturgis said he expects Round Valley to dry out around mid-May, with higher-altitude trails staying wet long into the season.
“Mid Mountain probably won’t be snow free on June 15,” Sturgis said. “The crest may not be ridable until July 1.”
Mountain Trails will start assembling its summer trail maintenance crew the first week of May, and will start clearing deadfall as soon as it becomes practical. It will work higher as the snow melts, with its biggest project for the year likely being one of the last to stay under winter’s grip.
The nonprofit plans to break ground on a multi-season project to build a trail that connects Empire Pass to somewhere around Scott’s Pass this season.
“It might hit Shadow Lake Loop or Keystone, but basically the idea is to ride from Empire Pass Trailhead to the ridge area,” Sturgis said. “It’s a big undertaking. … We are basically starting at 9,000 feet in a heavily wind-loaded area. Snow is problematic.”
Outdoor enthusiasts can find out more about that project and others at the Mountain Madness open house on May 9 at the Park City Doubletree, where the area’s land-use organizations will convene to talk with trail users and broadcast their plans for the season.
After the trails have dried out, the rest of Mountain Trails’ summer programming is scheduled with nearly no changes from last year’s.
The organization will participate in National Trails Day on June 1, though it hasn’t settled on a trail to work on yet, and Sturgis said there are currently no plans to change the routes of the Triple Trail Challenge trail running series races or the route of the Tour Des Suds mountain bike race.
For more information go to mountaintrails.org.
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