An opportunity to greatly improve the quality of Nordic skiing in our community is here. Let’s work to raise the bar, and do more — together. Here’s why the need is there, and the time is now.
The County’s current equipment — three small and aging machines that are underpowered for many circumstances — are used to try and cover 22 miles of trails in four different skiable county parks.
Two of these machines are roughly ten years old, and another is more than 30 years old. None of them have the power to pull a common “tiller” — the one piece of equipment that always provides safe, quality trails after heavy snows or when trails become icy (a major concern for both beginner and experienced skiers).
All three current machines have had numerous and costly equipment breakdowns causing lengthy grooming delays after major snowfalls, which can create compounding challenges and keep people from using the trails at peak times.
Further, the County’s current equipment is very labor intensive, requiring multiple passes on the snow’s surface for what the proposed equipment can do with one pass, saving both time and money.
To recap, the current equipment is:
Eau Claire County is prepared to invest in equipment to help remedy this, but their highly constrained budget isn’t enough to cover what’s really needed. And that’s where this fundraising initiative and partnership comes in.
As we’ve seen, conditions and types of precipitation events can vary wildly. New equipment, like the Snow Rabbit 3, will have the power, attachments, and tiller needed to handle the largest and wettest snowfalls, as well as icy conditions that need the ice tilled up and laid back down.
Wait time for the “right conditions” will go down as our community is more able to handle what Old Man Winter throws our way.
Safety, recreation, health, tourism, events, cost-savings, and more — the benefits are many. Between 3,000 and 4,000 local and visiting skiers utilize our county parks. With this equipment, they’ll be able to depend on quality ski trails of modern standards that are smooth and free of ice.
This will increase skiing opportunities and recreational ski hours for all levels of skiers from beginners to advanced, children to adults.
Tourism dollars will be spent as Tower’s reputation returns across Wisconsin, and our community will be able to put its best foot forward at events held at our facilities.
Plus, county operational expenses will decrease as this equipment can do the work more quickly and efficiently, requiring fewer passes to develop a useable surface.
Roughly 250 kids per year, aged 4- to 18-years-old, participate in the Kickin’ Kids Youth Ski League and the Chippewa Valley Nordic Ski Team, all of whom come from more than 50 different elementary, middle, and high schools across the Chippewa Valley.
It’s a dramatically growing program that will benefit from investment in quality trail conditions, and have fewer cancellations due to poor conditions.
Additionally, between 30-40 members of the UW-Eau Claire Nordic Ski Club also utilize Tower Ridge for training, and host a popular citizen’s race event each year as well.
Multiple considerations and alternates were factored into the decision to pursue a quality grooming machine like the Snow Rabbit 3. Among those alternate options were:
These and other possible solutions have been talked about at multiple meetings of the county, Ski Striders, and other concerned parties. The course chosen for this campaign has been largely agreed upon as the best course of action.