XC trail grooming still up in the air


With snow on the ground, days getting short and time even shorter, Mammoth still does not have a plan to groom its cross country ski trails at Shady Rest Park.

The nonprofit Mammoth Nordic Foundation, which has used a set-aside fund of $20,000 in Measure R tax funding and which has groomed about seven miles of trail in recent years, still has not come forward as to its plans—if any—to perform the grooming for the coming winter.

In addition, the National Forest Service, which has a multiple-party agreement with Mammoth Nordic and the Town of Mammoth Lakes through 2014, is just coming out of the partial federal government shutdown.

Because of that, the Forest Service was unable to send any staff to the latest meeting of the Mammoth Lakes Trails Committee meeting on Monday, Oct. 7, where the cross country grooming issue bubbled up.

It will bubble up again, presumably, on Nov. 4, when the trails committee meets again, followed by a Recreation Commission meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Until then, the committee, the town and, most importantly, cross country skiers, seemingly are in limbo as to who will groom the cross country trails, on what machines, and what a new agreement will look like.

“Let’s plan on the fact that they (Mammoth Nordic) are not going to be here,” said the committee’s Sean Turner, who also has a seat on the town’s Recreation Commission.

“Let’s hope they do, but ‘hope’ is not a business plan. If they don’t come forward, it would be great to have a backup plan.”

As of now, the backup plan seems to be based on wishful thinking.

“I’m just thinking back in my career years,” said Sandy Hogan, a committee member and a former to administrator in the Inyo National Forest.

“There were a lot of times with some of the summer permit holders, we never heard from them until the snow melted, then all of a sudden, there they were!”

The committee did not go into full panic mode at its October meeting, leaning on a vague hope that Mammoth Nordic not only will respond with a plan for this season, but also would clean up some paperwork left over from last year, such as a required performance report.

Committee coordinator Steve Speidel said he had spoken to at least one Mammoth Nordic board member and that the board member had promised a response, but none came, according to Recreation Director Stuart Brown.

“I would think it would behoove us to ask staff ... to perhaps look around [for alternative solutions],” said committee member Bill Sauser.

“If Mammoth Nordic is not going to do it, perhaps we ask staff to look into what a machine would cost for at least the December-January-February time frame.

“At least we’d know that if Mammoth Nordic was not interested in allowing us to use their machine, or if they were not going to participate, we could perhaps still put together a package to have grooming.

“It’s an important program,” Sauser continued, “and I think we can make it work. There would be no contracts, no RFPs (Requests for Proposals)—just an informal reach-out to agencies like the Water District or Mammoth Mountain to see what a piece of equipment on lease would cost.”

Or, Sauser suggested, perhaps the town should buy a groomer machine, train a staff member and provide three days of grooming a week.

Or, other committee members said, lease a groomer, hire a staffer to run it and so on.

Thus the discussion went, around and around in a circular and inconclusive meander, ending just about where it began, with increasingly nervous committee members drumming their fingers, waiting on hope and a prayer.

Meanwhile, outside, a 10-inch snowfall on Monday, Oct. 28, served as a reminder that winter, if not here already, is on the way.