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Jerry Hustaffa drags a fir tree behind a rhino to pack down the snow on the Ferguson Ridge Nordic trails Sunday. (KATIE NESBITT/The Observer)
There was just enough snow to open Ferguson Ridge Ski Area Sunday outside of Joseph when a good snowfall followed several weeks of cold weather. Conditions were described as “early season,” but there was plenty of snow to go around for those eager to get on the slopes.
Young skiers like Annie Rose Miller and Malcolm Albee were some of the first on the T-bar and bombing down the face of the ski hill. Now practically experts, the two have been regulars at Fergi, as the locals call it, since they were in diapers.
Jerry Hustaffa, volunteer for the Nordic Ski Club, fired up a rhino, a two-seat over-snow vehicle with tracks to groom the Nordic loops that extend from the downhill area. He said Ken Bronec laid out the trails approximately three years ago, complete with blue diamond trail markers.
Hustaffa tied a grand fir behind the rhino to pack down the snow. “When there isn’t much snow dragging the tree behind packs it in lightly. When we get more, I’ll drag a pallet and when we have even more, I can make a two-track.”
The rhino followed the Nordic trail where fluffy, dry snow covered the grass. The lower loop is fairly flat, but then another trail shoots uphill and ties in with RY Timber property and follows along the Canal Road. A cross country skier can then take a loop around Papoose Lake or venture into McCully Creek country and even into the wilderness.
The trail also ties in with the Sno Park where the roads to McCully Creek Trail and Ferguson Ridge diverge.
Back at the lodge, Moses and Christine Frederic flip hamburgers and serve up chorizo tacos. Charlie Kissinger kept busy opening day tuning skis and renting equipment in the wood fire-heated cabin.
Ferguson Ridge is strictly run by volunteers who make up the Eagle Cap Ski Club and a partnership with the Joseph-Enterprise Lions Club. Wallowa County was given the land two years ago by the private owners to make sure that the ski area would be available for the children of the future.
Ferguson Ridge is open weekends and holidays until April. Check the website www.skifergi.com.