January 09, 2003 11:00 pm
EXPANSIVE SYSTEM: Brenna Knowles, who is originally from Haines, skis on one of the cross country trails at the Anthony Lakes ski area. (Observer file photo).
EXPANSIVE SYSTEM: Brenna Knowles, who is originally from Haines, skis on one of the cross country trails at the Anthony Lakes ski area. (Observer file photo).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Trails are rivers of life for the cross country skier, allowing one to voyage deep into forests without disturbing nature's pulse.

The late Ben Francy understood this well. It is fitting that he is being honored at the Anthony Lakes ski area for his contribution to the development of its Nordic trail system.

The ski area has added 10 kilometers to its cross country trail network, which now totals about 45 kilometers. A portion of the new trails at Anthony Lakes are known as the Francy Loops. They are named in honor of Ben Francy who died in a car accident 11 years ago. He was a Nordic and alpine ski instructor, an artist, a musician and an archeologist. Francy was a graduate of Union High School and Eastern Oregon University. He lived in Bend at the time of his death.

Francy came up with the ideas for many of the trails now in place at the Anthony Lakes ski area.

"He was quite visionary,'' said Richard Knowles, the director of Anthony Lakes' Nordic Center.

The Francy Loops are east of Anthony Lake and intersect the Black Lake Meadow trail. A highlight of the trails is the panoramic view they give skiers of the Eagle Cap Wilderness and the Baker Valley.

"It is a wonderful living tribute to (Francy's) memory,'' said Nordic skier Charlie Gillis of La Grande.

Gillis said that Francy had such a diversity of talents that in a sense he was "larger than life."

A second addition to the trail system is known as the College Extension. This is an addition to the 3.2-kilometer College Trail. The College Extension gives skiers a striking look at Gun Site Mountain.

Knowles strived to provide skiers with views like the one of Gun Site Mountain when designing the routes of the new trails.

"Skiers like the vistas, they add a new concept to the trail system,'' he said.

The College Extension is more challenging than College Trail.

"It makes an advanced Nordic trail more advanced,'' Gillis said. "It's a workout, definitely.''

A third addition is known as the Loop Trail. It runs from the Nordic Center to the Anthony Lakes ski lodge.

Sixty-percent of the Anthony Lakes trail system is rated in the expert difficulty category. Twenty-six percent are rated as intermediate and 14 percent are at the beginner level of difficulty.

The trail additions were made about a year after the 20-kilometer Elkhorn Byway was added. The trail starts near Anthony Lakes' Nordic Center and goes up the summit of the mountain.

The Elkhorn Byway is groomed on weekends and holidays. The rest of the trail system is groomed every day the Anthony Lakes ski area operates. Anthony Lakes generally operates Thursday through Sunday.

Anthony Lakes has the second-largest groomed cross country trail network in the state. It is behind only the Mount Bachelor ski area, which has about 50 kilometers of trails.