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Northern B.C. ski club fighting for season amidst wet conditions

The Onion Lake cross country ski trails are melting away, and the Nordic Valley Ski Club is on damage control while they hope for snow.
The wet and icy conditions are hitting the ski club hard near Terrace B.C.

The cross country ski trails are melting away, and the club is on damage control while they hope for more snow.

“It rained buckets up there on Sunday,” said club president Dan McElheron, adding that it was pouring again on Tuesday, even more at the Onion Lake ski trails than in Terrace.

“I don’t know what’s left of our trails right now,” he said, adding that while some trails are really melted, his guess is that sections of the Beaver, Snowbound and Moose trails will still be open for skiing.

Someone from the club will assess the damage in the next few days and then the club will decide how to proceed.

“But we won’t be closing the gate,” said McElheron. “That would be season ending. There’s no way we would close the gate this early, because there still could be snow possible.”

He added that the club might close the rental shed, opening it only by appointment, and some skiers will probably hit the trails even with the icy conditions and care patches.

“Some people have a different version of what’s ‘skiable,’” he commented. “They might be prepared to take their skis off and walk once or twice (where there are melted patches).

McElheron says prior to the rain, the season so far has been quite good.

The Nordic Valley Ski Club which maintains the trails is utilizing a new ice-grinding attachment on the SnowKiti groomer, which makes a vast difference on the trails in icy conditions.

With teeth arming the front of the machine, the front renovator attachment breaks up the ice and grinds it into a rough snow to make the trails usable.

“When that first rain came… the dog run got all flooded, but then that cold snap came in and everything froze up solid. It was like a skating rink,” McElheron said, adding that they used the new attachment to carve up the trails.

“After the first pass (with the groomer) it’s skiable, and by the time we do a second pass, it’s actually quite nice,” he said of the trails.

That equipment may help stretch the season this year — that’s the hope for the club, which has been aiming to break its membership record this year.

They already maxed out their jackrabbits and bunnies children’s programs, with 64 young skiers this year, and McElheron says they hope to continue the programs despite conditions if possible.

They’re also within four members of the club’s 360 season membership record, a stride closer than last year when the club had 335. Last year, they’d hoped to break their record, but a similar rainy streak melted the snow early, causing them to close the trails in mid-March a month earlier than usual.

But McElheron is optimistic for more chances to ski this winter.

“I don’t consider the season over, it’s only mid-February,” he said, commenting that it was only two years ago that this area saw a six-foot dump of snow on Feb. 5, 2015.

“We’re just waiting for more snow. We’ll leave the gate open and post conditions on the website and Facebook,” he said.