With the recent snow, incoming sunny, spring weather, and many people with lots of time on their hands, the draw of the ski trails is strong right now. With the strange and challenging times that the COVID-19 virus has brought about, it is important to get outdoors, whether for exercise, peace and quiet, mental health, or all of the above!
However, there are some important things to keep in mind given the current public health situation with the COVID-19 virus.
Here are some resources on trails, leave no trace, and recreating during the pandemic:
Alternative Ski Trails: With grooming finishing up, there are still options for mellow xc skiing on ungroomed trails. It is spring conditions, so beware. A few trail suggestions.
While it is important to get our outdoor time and fresh air during the times of COVID-19, please remember that we all need to do our part to help limit its spread and protect those who are more vulnerable. When it comes to trails, this means allow plenty of distance to other users, keep your dogs close (i.e. on a leash, especially in busy areas like parking lots and near trailheads), dont carpool with people outside of your household, and keep group sizes small. Be aware that in the spring, our trails get very icy and have rapidly growing bare patches making skiing increasingly hazardous. Air on the side of extreme caution, especially on the lower miles of Sourdough and the section of trail from the Moser Trailhead up to Moser Divide, which sees lots of sun and will be icy in the morning and evening hours. Avoiding injuries and limiting the strain on emergency services is a huge help right now so please, take it slow, if it looks icy, just walk it.
Here is a helpful bit that Friends of Hyalite shared recently that the American Alpine Club produced in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
As noted above, our trails are in their spring transformation. We are fully done grooming in town and have about a week left on Sourdough and Hyalite. The lower miles of Sourdough are getting pretty rough and we will not be doing very much more there this season. Bare patches and ice patches are growing rapidly each day and the remaining snow rapidly softens and turns to slush each day.
Once above the bridge, the skiing is good but be ready for treacherous conditions to get there. Stay tuned for updates, we will groom at least 1 more time this season.
The last week of warm weather really took a toll on the town ski trails and the lower miles of Sourdough. For the town trails, without sustained colder weather, that mess is lurking just under the new snow and grooming will just turn the trails into a wet mess.
Our main Sourdough sled is back in action, so with a little bit of draining time today, we will get back at some grooming up Sourdough this week.
We had a great run of snow through February after limping along through December and January; its a shame to see it go so fast but that's the way it goes sometimes. If we get a chance (cooler, snowier weather) we will try to revive things a little bit, so stay tuned.
Well, March certainly appears to have brought spring along with it. For the time being, coverage on the town trails is holding up quite well though there are some slush patches forming. I have gotten out and skied Highland Glen the last 2 afternoons and it has been very good spring skiing. It is definitely on the softer side and be ready for a punchy spot here and there but overall it is very good. Given the continued warm forecast, I dont think we will see the good town skiing last much longer. We are doing what we can to keep things smoothed out and if there is a freeze on a night when we havent groomed, the snow will be very crusty first thing in the morning but should soften quickly by midday.
Sourdough is a slightly different animal; we havent been able to do much there recently as we have 2 snowmobiles in the shop and have been using the Pisten Bully daily in town. So, Sourdough will be crusty and icy, please be extremely careful if you are up there. We will get the trail into good shape again by the weekend but please bear with us here; we cant be everywhere at once when the snow changes so dramatically like this.
Bridger Creek is in decent shape and we will continue smoothing the trail there as coverage and slush puddle size allow. It should be decent skiing there into the weekend.
On another note, Wednesday night into Thursday morning is forecast to have a stronger freeze, so Thursday morning should be decent crust cruising around town; get it while you can!
Stay tuned for updates and see you on the trails!
While spring is still a couple weeks away, it sure feels like it is spring. The snow is transforming a bit and soon thin spots on the trails will show up as ice and bare spots. In the meantime, we are doing what we can do minimize how crusty and icy things get. The Pisten Bully does an excellent job of this but we cannot use it every where and we cannot use it every night (its expensive!). So, be ready for some firm and fast skiing where we are relying on snowmobiles but expect conditions to get more forgiving as the day warms up. Sunset Hills and Highland Glen will be excellent skiing and we are generally going to groom every other day or as the snow changes there.
Another reminder to Highland Glen; the old homestead in the bottom is private property and is clearly signed as such. You are trespassing if you are skiing through and around in that area. Dont jeopardize the communities access to Highland Glen and please stop skiing around the homestead!
Sourdough this time of year starts to get difficult; the lower miles become crusty and it is hard to renovate that surface with a snowmobile while the upper miles still groom out very well on a sled. Please treat the lower miles with caution.
As a note to other trails users in Sourdough (runners, dog walkers, hikers); this is a shared trail and as skiers need space to maneuver and control their speed, please leave space for them to do so! In general the downhill skier always has the right of way and that is even more true now with the fast, crusty snow. Please pay attention to traffic, read the "stay in your lane sign" and put that to practice. From what I have seen, most people are doing this but there are always some who treat Sourdough like it is a quiet trail (it is not) and walk 5 people across the middle on blind corners. Skiers are doing what they can to slow down but it doesnt do any good if there is nowhere for them to go.
Stay safe and enjoy the trails!
The skiing is great but we have a couple important reminders.
Now that we are running the Pisten Bully in town, all of you early morning and late night skiers need to be heads up for machinery. It is very hard to see beyond the headlights, especially when the tiller is up and we are backing up, which have to do frequently at Highlan Glen. There is a lot to pay attention to simply operating the machine and we dont need skiers darting around us. So, if you are out early or late and it looks like the machine is still out, please head elsewhere for your ski, generally this just means going to the other side of the road at the Sunset Hills/Highland Glen complex. This also gives the trail more time to set up which means better skiing for everyone. While that fresh cord is tempting, please be patient and let us finish our work if you can.
It is never ok to ski behind the PB or to try to pass it without the permission of the operator.
At Highland Glen, there are only several legal access points: the trailhead at the corner of Highland and Ellis (Softball Fields Complex), the Painted Hills gate off of Kagy Ave, and in the middle of the west side of the area from the "tree streets".
Access through the old homestead is trespassing (it is clearly signed as private property). All of Highland Glen is private property owned by Bozeman Health and we operate under a winter user agreement (the summer trails are operated by GVLT under a similar user agreement. There is not an easement on the Highland Glen property, so please respect private property and associated signage. There are lots of ski tracks going to and from the homestead this winter and that needs to stop.
Enjoy the great skiing an the sun!
While it is still a warm winter, we are at least getting snow now. In the last week, the town trails have picked up around a foot of nice, moisture dense snow that is packing down into a fantastic base for our trails. Higher up, Sourdough and Hyalite recieved significantly more! The Forest Service got out and groomed a portion of the Hyalite trails but between down trees and wallowing through the deep snow, they could not get to the whole thing. Friday night, the BSF crew took the Pisten Bully up Sourdough and groomed to Mystic Lake and the Moser Trailhead, so everything is now wide and flat though it will be a little soft. The lower miles have excellent coverage and all of the last rocks are buried.
On the town trails, Sunset Hills and Highland Glen are now being groomed with the Pisten Bully and are both in very good shape. Bridger Creek is only snowmobile groomed, so there has been a lot of work with the roller out there to get everything packed down. We will get out and do a proper grooming with set tracks for the weekend but expect skiing at Bridger Creek to be the softest of all of our trails.
General reminder: there are no dogs allowed on any of the in town ski trails; only Sourdough and Hyalite allow dogs. Among the many reasons for this, dogs increase the wear and tear on trails, similar to foot traffic. Being community trails funded by what are effectively donations, we cannot afford to groom every night, so if you are taking your dog for a ski at Sunset Hills or Highland Glen, that is a bit of an irresponsible trail use and makes things harder for the rest of us. We know it is a bummer that none of the in town trails allow dogs but please, help us out and save the dog skiing for either off trail town adventures or Sourdough and Hyalite. Hopefully in the near future we can figure out some in town, dog friendly skiing.
All of the trails in town are in very good shape. Sunset Hills and Highland Glen got a touch up the night of 2/4 and it was starting to snow already by the time I finished up. With some serious snow fall on the way Wednesday night through to Friday, we may end up not grooming Wednesday morning and saving our efforts for Thursday, Friday, and into the weekend. We just went from not having very much grooming work to likely having a lot; its a good problem to have but definitely serves as a reminder to buy your trails pass or make a donation so we can keep grooming a lot!
Sourdough is just the Moser side for now; as snow develops in the next few days we will at least pack to the bridge and then will try to shape things up with the PB for the weekend. We are generally sticking to 3, maybe 4 days a week of grooming at Sourdough which works well until you get a lot of snow at once; every full grooming of Sourdough is 28 miles and on a snowmobile, that may take 2 machines 2 or 3 laps to get into good skiing shape. With the town trails getting snow now too we are running the PB there a lot so it might take us a little longer to get back to Sourdough with it, so please be patient.
The Hyalite Road has been plowed but the trails have not been groomed since before the last snow.
After nearly losing all of our in town trails to the hot wind on Saturday, winter is back again today. If you drove past the town trails yesterday afternoon, you probably noticed that in many places, they were down to ice, so with that in mind, our grooming plan is to let this snow pile up through the day (and hopefully into tonight) before we get out and groom either Sunday night or Monday morning. This will also give time for all the accumulated melt water from Friday and Saturday to drain out and refreeze. Stay tuned for updates, expect town trails to be gotten to first; between heavy snow and down trees, Sourdough will be a bit of a project on Monday. Stay tuned!
The snow trickle has provided and conditions in town are currently about the best we have had so far. At Sunset Hills we finally set a classic track this week and cover is excellent all the way around with packed powder conditions. Highland Glen likewise finally has a classic track though it is on the thin side. The trail platform at Highland has smoothed out remarkably and there is very little grass showing except for at the tops of the south facing hills where there is no snow. These spots are easy to get around, fortunately and the overall conditions are packed powder on an increasingly level base. Bridger Creek is still just the lower loops and it is thin in a few spots but skiable. There is still not a classic track at Bridger Creek but dont let that stop you from enjoying a nice ski.
Sourdough has enough snow that we can finally set a track all the way to the trail head and the rocks are now all covered. The first 2 miles are seeing a lot of walker traffic and are bumpy and crusty in places. Please gently remind walkers to not walk on the classic tracks if they are doing so and to give skiers some space. We all need to share the trail up there as there are lots of people on a narrow, often slick trail. Skiers, please take the first two miles carefully and walkers, if you read this, please allow space for skiers by not taking up the entire width of the trail with your groups (walk as close to single file as you can). Above mile 2, the skiing is outstanding and the trail is groomed to both Mystic Lake and Moser Divide.
General reminders: No foot traffic on the in town ski trails, no bikes on any of the groomed ski trails. Please help us out by being ambassadors if you see this activity. In addition, please keep dogs off of the in town ski trails and if you are skiing off trail around town with a dog, such as in the fields at Highland Glen, dogs are required to be on a leash (City Ordinance).
We have warm, windy weather coming for the next couple days so think good thoughts for our snowpack and hopefully things will turn around again.