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Skiers eager for new groomer to work its magic

Looking for a ski area that offers improved trails and great conditions even during icy periods?

Look no farther than the Meacham Divide Ski Area.

The ski area has a new groomer, a 1993 Bombardier BR-400+. The groomer, which arrived last week, is equipped with a tiller that breaks up ice. The tiller means that trails at Meacham Divide will be much easier to ski even when icy conditions prevail.

"It will make the trails smoother than ever," said Anne March of the Blue Mountain Nordic Club, which operates Meacham Divide. "Before, we needed perfect snow for good skiing.''

Mike Wisdom of the Blue Mountain Nordic Club agrees. He said the trail quality will be more consistent this winter because of the better groomer.

"Our trails will be far superior regardless of the condition of the snow,'' Wisdom said.

The Blue Mountain Nordic Club obtained the groomer for $16,000. The groomer previously cleared trails at the Kirkwood Ski Area in California near Lake Tahoe.

Wayne Williams, the Grande Ronde Nordic Club's groomer operator, said he is delighted with the new machine. Williams said it will be much easier to maneuver, noting it can make a 360-degree turn anywhere.

"It can turn on its own radius,'' said Williams, who has been BMNC's groomer for several years.

Williams also said he is happy with the groomer's cab, noting that its heating system is better than that of the club's previous grooming machine. He expects to be more comfortable this winter while grooming trails.

People who played a key role in helping the Blue Mountain Nordic Club get the groomer include Steve Antell of La Grande. Antell, a member of the Blue Mountain Nordic Club, spent countless hours searching for a groomer and writing grant applications, which helped the club get the funding it needed for the purchase.

"Steve was amazing,'' March said.

Those who assisted Antell with writing grant applications included club member Anne Greenlee.

The Meacham Divide Nordic Ski Area opened 10 years ago. Today the ski site, 19 miles west of La Grande, has about 25 kilometers of trails, all of which are regularly groomed each winter.

Hundreds of skiers come to Meacham Divide each winter. Some skiers are from out of state, but most are from families that are Blue Mountain Nordic Club members.

Meacham Divide's new 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. Donations were also provided by the La Grande Optimist Club, Whitman College's Nordic ski team, The Lamb Foundation, Union County Tourism and Blue Mountain Nordic members.

Branches, fallen trees and other debris are cleared each fall by nordic club members. The trail-clearing work was done this year on Oct. 14 and 21.

Meacham Divide will open as soon as there is enough snow for skiing. Skiers who are not club members will again be asked to make a $5 per person donation each time they use Meacham Divide. A donation box will be set up for skiers. Much of the money will be used to operate and maintain the groomer.

The Blue Mountain Nordic Club 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 website: www.onc.org/bmnordic/

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