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The Observer Daily paper for 10/20/14

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Nordic skiers take a liking to Meacham Divide

Skiers glide along a portion of the 25 kilometers of trails at the Meacham Divide Ski Area. - Submitted photos
Skiers glide along a portion of the 25 kilometers of trails at the Meacham Divide Ski Area. - Submitted photos
It has been a good winter for the Meacham Divide Ski Area.

So good that even a jackknifed semi truck on Interstate 84 could not keep the cross country skiing center from setting a record pace.

To date, 524 skiers have come to Meacham Divide. That’s 84 percent more than the number that had visited the area by this time year ago, when totals were first kept. This year’s total may be the highest in Meacham Divide’s 10-year history.

“I’m guessing this is an all-time high,’’ said Anne March, president of the Blue Mountain Nordic Club, which operates Meacham Divide.

The winter’s skier total would have been even higher had not it been for the semi truck jackknifing on an icy Interstate 84 around 10 a.m. Feb. 2. The truck went down in the westbound portion of I-84, stopping traffic for several hours a few miles from the turnoff to Meacham Divide.

The timing was terrible because Feb. 2 was Free Ski Day at Meacham Divide. A large number of skiers were expected because no fees were charged and free lessons were provided.

Few skiers from Union County made it to Meacham Divide that day because of the truck accident, but about 50 from Pendleton visited.

Still, the total skiers coming to Meacham Divide remains high thanks to a good snow year and a 25-kilometer trail system improved by a new groomer. The 1993 Bombardier BR-400+ groomer is allowing the Blue Mountain Nordic Club to expand the width of Meacham Divide’s trails by up to 2 feet in places.

The wider trails have been particularly welcomed by skate skiers who need more room, and by snowshoers, March said. The wider paths allow snowshoers to walk along the side of trails while providing skiers with enough room to pass. An increasing number of those coming to Meacham Divide are snowshoers.

Meacham Divide’s trails were widened in October by Blue Mountain Nordic Club members in anticipation of the new groomer.

Operated by Wayne Williams of Cove, the groomer is making it possible to clear trails faster. This makes it easier for Williams to groom the trail network early in the morning and have it ready before skiers arrive, March said.

The Blue Mountain Nordic Club obtained the groomer for $16,000. The groomer was obtained with the major assistance from the Meyer Memorial Trust, which donated $7,000. Other major donors include the Wildhorse Foundation, which contributed $4,000, and Union County, which provided $2,500.

The 1993 Bombardier BR-400+ previously cleared trails at the Kirkwood Ski Area in California near Lake Tahoe.

Meacham Divide is far from Lake Tahoe but only 19 miles west of La Grande. Reach Meacham Divide by taking the Mount Emily Summit Road turnoff on I-84 and then driving 1.7 miles to Emily Sno-Park.

Wayne Williams of Cove operates the Blue Mountain Nordic Club’s new groomer at the Meacham Divide Ski Area. - Submitted photos
Wayne Williams of Cove operates the Blue Mountain Nordic Club’s new groomer at the Meacham Divide Ski Area. - Submitted photos
Mount Emily Summit Road has been a source of frustration at times this year for the Blue Mountain Nordic Club because limited state funding has prevented it from being plowed at times. The Nordic Club has been forced to limit the number of times it has the road plowed to prevent state funding from being exhausted before the winter is over.

As a result, the road could not be plowed for the weekend of Feb. 9-10. Nordic Club leaders sent e-mails to members notifying them of the closure and posted it on its website. Still, a number of skiers did not get the word. The skiers drove to the summit road turnoff only to find it was not clear enough to drive up.

Some skiers were not deterred, though, parking their vehicles at the turnoff and then skiing up Meacham Divide.

“It shows a lot of interest (in the ski area),’’ March said.

Mount Emily Summit Road is now accessible to vehicles but will be plowed only once or twice the rest of the winter. Likewise, the Meacham Divide trail network is still open but will be groomed only one or two more times because of limited funds.

Meacham Divide, based on past history, may continue to have enough snow for skiing about another three weeks, March said.

The Blue Mountain Nordic Club gets most of its funding for operating Meacham Divide through the sale of individual and family memberships. To join costs $25 per year for individuals, $40 per year for families. Members do not have to pay to ski at Meacham Divide.

For information on joining the club call March at 963-4955 or visit the club’s website at www.onc.org/bmnordic .

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