The groomed ski trails at the Chinook golf course are in tip-top condition this season as a result of a new arrangement between the Swift Current Nordic Ski Club and the City of Swift Current.
Volunteers from the ski club groomed the trails in previous years, but City staff have been carrying out this task since December.
Swift Current Nordic Ski Club President Ed Doyle said the club is impressed with the work done by City staff.
“They’re just doing an incredible job,” he noted. “The trails are just the best they’ve ever been, and they’re ready. We never had that before where they’ve been ready all the time. They groom the trails a couple of times a week.”
The club previously used an old snowmobile, a 1972 Ski-doo, to do the grooming, but it requires a lot of maintenance and grooming only took place when volunteers were available.
“The biggest challenge was getting the right machine to do it, to get something that other volunteers could run,” he said. “The Ski-doo is so old that just one or two people knew how to operate it, because it was kind of finicky to get going and to get it running.”
The new arrangement was made possible after the ski club successfully applied for a community grant. The amount of around $6,000 was used to purchase tracks for a four-wheeled utility vehicle used by the City at the Chinook golf course.
“Before that they couldn’t go in snow with rubber tires, because they would get stuck all the time,” he said.
City staff are using this vehicle to pull the club’s grooming equipment. The club previously purchased the groomer and trail set with funds received through the Saskatchewan Lotteries Community Grant Program and a club volunteer made the packer.
“We went out with them the first couple of times to show where our trails were and they’re just so good at doing it,” Doyle said. “For each snow fall they can shift the trails, because they know where all the tee boxes are and where all the greens are. They know that golf course very well. â€¦ So it’s way more flexible and both of their guys that do the grooming are eager and they’re just really supportive. We can’t say enough about the support they give us.”
Doug Leavins, the Chinook golf course superintendent, said the tracked four-wheeled utility vehicle can easily pull the club’s grooming equipment.
“After a fresh snow we roll it first, and then you set the tracks for the cross-country ski trails,” he explained. When it’s icy, you run over a few times with the groomer just to dig up the ice and stuff a little bit just so it’s not so icy. It just breaks it up a bit to make it into snow.”
They will do the grooming about twice a week and they will also pack the snow down after a fresh snowfall. They will use snow from elsewhere on the golf course to patch areas of the trail that might become a bit thin.
“I’ve used the tractor and spent a few hours just pushing snow onto the trail in a few places where it was thin, and then we pack it down and groom it again,” he said.
The tracks on the four-wheeled utility vehicle have another benefit to City staff other than the ability to groom the ski trails. It is now easier for them to get around in the snow to the various parts of the golf course when they do winter pruning of trees. Various maintenance tasks are carried out at the golf course during the winter and a few hours per week of trail grooming is something they can easily handle.
There are six kilometres of groomed trails at the Chinook golf course. The trails are spread out over a wide area with four interconnected loops. Leavins said it is important for trail users to stay on the groomed path to avoid damage to the greens and tee boxes. Walkers, snowshoers and bikers are also using the trails, and they are requested to be careful not to damage the set ski tracks.
“It’s great to have outdoor activities, especially with COVID restrictions,” he noted. “I like seeing people out walking on the golf course and skiing on the golf course. It’s just, if everybody goes where they’re supposed to go, it really helps a lot.”
Brad Woods, the partnership and events coordinator in the City’s Community Services division, said the City is assisting the ski club with some signage for the trail and he can also provide the club with some guidance with regard to events.
“Our whole focus is on providing opportunities for the people of Swift Current to recreate,” he said about the role of Community Services. “We want to see people leading active lifestyles, we want them enjoying the facilities, both indoor and outdoor, that we have available to them. We want to help run programs that are open to the public. Our focus is to support clubs, not taking over the clubs by any means, but just working with them when they need support to help them deliver the programs that they want to.”
His position of support has been extended to the ski club, and he is available to assist the group when they arrange their annual winter events.
“We look at alternative activities like cross-country skiing, reminding people that it’s a great outdoor activity, and we have a great facility here in Swift Current and we have an active club,” he said.
The groomed trails at the Chinook golf course are available to community members to use free of charge, but the ski club will welcome new members. Membership fees assist the club with its activities and an active club makes it easier to qualify for grants.
Club membership had varied from year to year since the club started in 2013, but it will at least have between 10 to 15 members each year. The club has experienced growth this season and there are over 20 members. Current membership rates are $45 for adults, $20 for youth, and $90 for families. Membership forms are available for download on the club’s website (www.scnsc.wordpress.com) and Facebook page (@scnordicskiclub).
The City’s annual Family Fun Week during the February school break takes place from Feb. 15-20, and the Swift Current Nordic Ski Club will also be part of the event. The club will host cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at the Chinook golf course on Feb. 20 from noon to 4 p.m. Some equipment will be available and the event is dependent on favourable ski conditions.