Trail Maintenance Project Continues

Bet + Capulin

Photo by Bet Gendron

Starting in the early 1970s NMCCSC member Sam Beard started building and maintaining ski trails in the Sandia Mountains. At that time most of the trails were in the area bounded by the Crest Road on the north, the Sandia Ski Area on the south, the Kiwanis service road on the west, and the Crest Highway on the east. During those first several years, Sam and crew built several miles of great ski trails have served the cross country ski community well.

Fast forward to the past decade, when weather conditions caused so much stress on the forest that the problem of maintenance has become critical. The drought and pest infestations of the past several years have left the forest with numerous hazard areas, including almost daily incidents of trees falling across ski and hiking trails. Add to that mix the forest fires of the past decade and you have a situation that demands a major effort the maintain the trails in serviceable condition. As a result, Sam and his crew have played a major role in establishing the volunteer groups that work tirelessly and almost continuously to keep the trails clear.  Among the mix are:

Cutting a Broken Cork Bark

Photo by Carl Smith

the NMCCSC adopted ski trails in the Sandia and Jemez Mountains,

the Friends of the Sandia Mountains,

the NM Volunteers for the Outdoors, and

the Cibola Trail Rangers.

All of these have been playing critical role in maintenance of our exceptional trail system.

Bill and Bet - You Cut - I Pry

Photo by Carl Smith

So what do these folks do when they go out? Their work usually starts when somebody reports a tree down across the trail. (This is often reported directly to the Cibola Trail Rangers site, although if the reporter doesn't have access to that site it is direct to Sam or one of the other crew members.) The next time a group goes out to work on the trails, they review the "down tree" reports and pick an area to address. If it happens to be within one of the Forest Service Wilderness boundaries, they haul up manual tools to take care of the removal.

If it is within the USFS National Forest boundaries, they can use power tools. After that they man-handle the pieces of log that block the trail to the side using a tool called a cant hook, a giant hook attached to a lever that allows them to roll the log off the trail to a safe location to the side.

Eric and Cant Hook

Photo by Carl Smith

While this work is both important and satisfying, it is also hazardous, so the US Forest Service provides extensive training for the crews that go out into the forest to perform this kind of trail maintenance work. There are several levels of sawyers that are needed as well as workers to help around the work site. They also give extensive instruction on the kinds of clothing and safety equipment that are essential to being able to perform the work safely.

As you might expect, vigorous work like this takes a lot of time and patience to do safely and correctly. One result of this is that the crews are constantly looking for more volunteer help that is willing to work the rules and restrictions that the US Forest Service has for these jobs. Just keep in mind that there are two goals for the program: keeping the trails clear and serviceable, and getting home safely from these vigorous outings.

So if you are in good shape and interested in a volunteer job that provides a wonderful service to the sport of cross country skiing as well as to the public that uses the forest, we have a spot for you. You can contact Sam at the address on the Trail Maintenance page. All the tools and training are free, although you will still have to provide your own clothing. Food is optional, but you will probably find it necessary, too.

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