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Enhancement of cross country skiing trail begins with buying a grooming machine

  • Former Concord High cross country coach and former City Council member Alan Hershlag makes his way along the Beaver Meadow cross country course on Wednesday.

  • Concord resident Karri Makinen enjoys the Beaver Meadow cross country trails on Wednesday. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Former Concord High cross country coach and former city councilman Alan Hershlag crisscrosses with Concord resident Karri Makinnen on the Beaver Meadow cross country course on Wednesday, February 3, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 2/7/2021 5:05:59 PM

When Concord High School Nordic ski team coach Sam Evans-Brown was on his own high school’s team, he had to use a snowmobile to drag a trailer to smooth out their trails.

“Snowmobile grooming,” Evans-Brown said, “is a huge pain in the butt.”

The weight caused the snowmobile to slide around and get stuck, and on top of all that, Evans-Brown said, “it does a bad job.”

The trails at Beaver Meadow Golf Course are currently being maintained with a snowmobile groomer, but Evans-Brown, Concord Parks and Recreation officials, and other local cross country skiing enthusiasts are looking to change that.

Fundraising has just begun to purchase a grooming machine to enhance the conditions on the Nordic ski trails at Beaver Meadow Golf Course. This is the first phase of a three-part plan to improve the quality of the skiing there, with future phases including the purchase of snow-making equipment and lighting.

This project, according to assistant director of parks and recreation Laura Bryant, got its start a few years ago, when the department started trying to find ways to make Beaver Meadow a year-round destination for community recreation. This push led to an outdoor skating pond and indoor golf simulators, and a corresponding uptick in community use of existing cross country trails. And once local ski teams started to use the trails more, attention quickly turned to improving the conditions.

“It’s one of those things that – pardon the pun – has sort of snowballed,” Bryant said.

Joe Ayotte, who coaches with the Concord Nordic Bill Koch Youth Ski League and used to run the program, was part of the reason for the uptick in use when he moved the league’s regular meeting area to Beaver Meadow. “Everybody loved that change,” Ayotte said, because parents could hang out in the clubhouse and kids could learn skills on diverse terrain.

Concord High School’s Nordic ski team started practicing at Beaver Meadow for similar reasons. Other trails, such as Memorial Field, were “pancake flat,” according to Evans-Brown. “Race courses have hills,” Evans-Brown said, and practicing in a place that didn’t mimic a race course was difficult.

Additionally, Evans-Brown was looking for a location with good conditions. “If you look around the state,” he said, “the teams that do really well are the teams that have a place where they can consistently do good skiing.”

But maintaining the quality of snow is difficult in New Hampshire. Evans-Brown noted that so far this season, conditions have been unfavorable at most of their practice areas. “Part of the problem is that we’re in a climatic zone where there’s just a ton of freezing and thawing happening,” he said. Those weather patterns leave snow icy and difficult to manage with the current grooming equipment. Ayotte, echoing Evans-Browns sentiments about the snowmobile groomer method, noted that “it’s often limited in what it can do” about the trail conditions.

The ultimate benefit with the new groomer is to have a machine that can manipulate snow on a larger scale, as well as being able to grind up icy snow and redistribute it. It will have better capacity for smoothing out the snow, and make for safe and skiable conditions on the trails.

The interest in a groomer of this style was jump-started a couple of years ago, when a Snow Rabbit grooming machine was used to groom the Beaver Meadow trails before a community race in 2018. Since then, acquiring one for the parks and recreation department to operate has been the goal.

The new groomer’s price is currently estimated between $120,000 and $160,000. According to Bryant, some of the money will come from the city – money that was already budgeted to replace the current equipment – and the rest will be raised by community donations. Their fundraising goal is to raise $100,000 by August.

Fundraising began just a few weeks ago, and already there has been community support. “Even before we started in earnest people have been reaching out to us asking how to make a donation,” Ayotte said. “It’s encouraging, and it seems like a really popular idea with the community.”

Bryant said that the campaign has two main directions right now: reaching out to larger donors, and a grassroots sticker campaign. She said that the latter has so far been an area that Ayotte and Evans-Brown have tackled as “the biggest cheerleaders” of the project, while she designed the stickers for those who donate $25 or more to the cause.

“People are super excited because it’s right here in our backyard,” Bryant said, and added that she anticipates that community support will be able to get them to their goal.

The stickers are currently available at Concord Parks and Recreation, Beaver Meadow Golf Course, and S&W Sports.

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