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La Grande Observer Daily Paper 07/21/14

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Meacham Divide opened this week after its trails were groomed by Wayne Williams of Cove. Williams, who is paid by the Nordic club, has groomed the area for a number of years. (Photos/BLUE MOUNTAIN NORDIC CLUB).
Meacham Divide opened this week after its trails were groomed by Wayne Williams of Cove. Williams, who is paid by the Nordic club, has groomed the area for a number of years. (Photos/BLUE MOUNTAIN NORDIC CLUB).

- Dick Mason

- The Observer

Want to take a winter spin on a roller coaster or get a taste of Kansas?

You could venture to a Six Flags theme park or visit the Sunflower State.

Or better yet, reduce your travel expenses and boost your heart rate by visiting the Meacham Divide Nordic Area.

The ski site, 19 miles west of La Grande, is now open for its 10th year of operation. Skiers will find its 16.2-kilometer trail network, which includes routes named Roller Coaster and Kansas, intact with a new flair.

A comb your hair stylist will never use is the reason.

Trails are in better condition because the Blue Mountain Nordic Club, which runs the ski area, has added a snow comb to its groomer. The snow comb is a plastic device placed on the back of the compression bar of the groomer. The comb creates a smooth, solid "corduroy surface'' ideal for ski skaters, said Anne March of the Blue Mountain Nordic Club.

Meacham Divide's trails, which are 12-feet wide, have portions for skaters and portions for classic skiers.

Those looking for thrills on the improved trails will want to try the 1.3-kilometer Roller Coaster route again. The intermediate-ability trail starts just west of the ski area's entry point. The trail winds through a forested area and climbs across a meadow to the top of a hill club members call "I Scream.'' The vocal name is fitting because I Scream speeds skiers to the "winding and twisting lower sections of Roller Coaster,'' according the BMNC's Web site, www.onc.org/bmnordic/

Kansas Trail is more difficult if less exhilarating. It begins about a kilometer from the Roller Coaster and like its namesake, offers easy to intermediate rolling terrain.

Skiers will again find trails free of debris thanks to the efforts of Blue Mountain Nordic Club members. In October the volunteers trimmed back branches hanging over the trails and brush along it. This was important because branches can break off and fall on to trails and brush sways into the trail when snow covered, March said.

Meacham Divide opened this week after its trails were groomed by Wayne Williams of Cove. Williams, who is paid by the Nordic club, has groomed the area for a number of years.

"He does an excellent job,'' March said.

Access to the ski area is not yet available to everyone since Summit Road 31, which leads to the ski area has not yet been plowed. The 1.7-mile road should be used only by those who have four-wheel-drive vehicles, March said.

Plowing of Summit Road 31 will be done later by the U.S. Forest Service with funds provided by the Oregon Department of Transportation. The Emily Sno-Park at the start of the ski trail site will also be plowed by the Forest Service.

Skiers will again be asked to make a $5 per person donation each time they use the Meacham Divide. A donation box will be set up for skiers.

All donations go to the Blue Mountain Nordic Club, which created and maintains the ski area on a shoestring budget. Most of its money is spent operating and maintaining the club's trail groomer and for insurance. The BMNC gets most of its money from membership fees. Memberships cost $25 a year per person or $40 per family.

Information on joining the club can be obtained at its Web site: www.onc.org/bmnordic/

Club member David Axelrod has long been struck by how selflessly BMNC volunteers have worked to keep Meacham Divide operating.

"It's an act of love and respect for the community that a group of people will keep this going.''

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