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Plenty of snow awaits Nordic skiers at Meacham Divide

A skier glides along the Loppet Trail that starts at the Meacham Divide parking lot and ends at Loppet Point.  Observer photos/PHIL BULLOCK
A skier glides along the Loppet Trail that starts at the Meacham Divide parking lot and ends at Loppet Point. Observer photos/PHIL BULLOCK
A break in the weather.

It is just what the Blue Mountain Nordic Club ordered.

And local skiers will be the beneficiaries this weekend.

Here is why: The ski area has received large amounts of snow this winter over extended periods, a mixed blessing. The snow is welcome but because it fell so many days in a row it has been hard for the Blue Mountain Nordic Club, which cannot afford to groom daily, to keep the ski area’s trails in perfect condition. Sometimes trails have been groomed only to be covered by snow a day later.

“We have not had a lot of windows to groom because it has been snowing so much,’’ said Mike Wisdom of the Nordic Club.

Fifteen miles of trails await skiers at Meacham Divide.
Fifteen miles of trails await skiers at Meacham Divide.
Such a window is now appearing. Snow has stopped falling and none is forecast this weekend. Meacham Divide is thus being groomed and its trails should be in top condition all weekend.

Skiers will again find a 15-mile network of trails at Meacham Divide. The trails are groomed by a 1993 Bombardier BR-400+. The Nordic Club obtained the groomer in late 2007 and first operated it at Meacham Divide last winter. The groomer, purchased with grants and donations, replaced an older model. Wisdom is extremely pleased with how effectively the new groomer is operating. It creates wider trails and is effective in all types of snow ranging from powder to the crusty variety.

“It handles it all very well,’’ Wisdom said.

The groomer is operated by Wayne Williams of Cove. The trails Williams maintains are designed for skating and diagonal cross country skiing. The trails can also accommodate snowshoers but they are encouraged to walk on the sides so they will not break up the tracks set for skiers.

“There is plenty of room on the outside edges for snowshoers,’’ Wisdom said.

Some people try to hike on the trails, something prohibited by the Nordic Club. Wisdom explained that the trails are too soft to walk on. Individuals not wearing snowshoes or skis, both of which redistribute weight, fall through the snow.

“Hikers sink in deep,’’ Wisdom said.

Dogs are another issue the Blue Mountain Nordic Club is confronting. The club allows the use of dogs only on the Roller Coaster and I Scream trails, said Bruce Johnson of the Blue Mountain Nordic Club.

Trail system offers diverse terrain

The Meacham Divide Ski Area, which opened about 10 years ago, has about 15 miles of trails. Listed below are brief descriptions of some of them.
• Loppet Trail: Starts at the Meacham Divide parking lot and ends at Loppet Point. A round trip on Loppet Trail is 11 kilometers. The first 2.5 kilometers of Loppet Trail is relatively flat, except for Moose Huff, the ski area’s steepest climb. The trail then continues north and descends two hills, the Lillehammer Lunge and Trondheim Trembler. At Loppet Point skiers have spectacular 20-mile vistas.
• Roller Coaster: this is a short, intermediate-ability trail just west of the parking area. Roller Coaster winds through young pines and climbs steeply across a meadow to the top of a hill called I Scream by the Blue Mountain Nordic Club. I Scream delivers skiers quickly to the winding and twisting lower sections of Roller Coaster.
• Pendleton Plunge and Whitman Whip: these are two short trails that intersect at the low point between Roller Coaster and Kansas. The trails are very steep and recommended for intermediate and advanced skiers.
• Kansas: the trail is west of Loppet below Moose Huff Hill. Kansas, like its namesake, rolls through easy to intermediate
• Butcher Loop: it begins at the top of Moose Huff Hill and goes to Butcher Point which provides an outstanding view of Meacham Canyon.
• Tillicum Loop: this trail provides skiers with many “ups and downs’’ and continuous views. It takes skiers to Tillicum Point.
• Quarry Loop: it offers open surroundings along flat to rolling terrain. It has one “zippy’’ downhill section that includes a quick turn.

Source: The Blue Mountain Nordic Club’s web site, www.onc.org/bmnordic.

Canines are not allowed on the other trails for safety reasons and because their paw prints break up the even surface skiers using the skating technique like, said Ann March of the Blue Mountain Nordic Club.

Meacham Divide will continue to be groomed until the club exhausts its budget. In 2008 the club had to stop grooming in February after running short of funds. This was unfortunate since snow continued falling at Meacham Divide through the spring.

“We could have kept grooming until April if we had more money,’’ Johnson said.

The Blue Mountain Nordic Club gets most of its money from membership fees. Memberships cost $35 a year per person or $50 a family. People can download membership forms at the club’s web site: www.onc.org/bmnordic.

Everyone using Meacham Divide is encouraged to contribute $5 in a donation box at the site. Most of the money raised will be used to operate and maintain the groomer.

The Nordic Club operates Meacham Divide in cooperation with the Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman national forests and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Many of the people who use Meacham Divide are from Union County, but there are also numerous individuals from Pendleton, Walla Walla and the Tri-Cities area who ski there.

Everyone coming to Meacham Divide is encouraged to check the Blue Mountain Nordic Club’s web site for the latest on snow and road conditions.

The ski area is situated at an elevation of 4,200 feet, 19 miles west of La Grande. From Interstate 84, take the Summit Road Exit 243. Go north 1.7 miles on the 31 Summit Road and park at the Emily Sno-Park..

An Oregon or Washington Sno-Park parking permit is required.

The ski area begins at the western parking lot. All drivers coming to Meacham Divide should carry traction devices.



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