The Eau Claire Ski Striders, a private non-profit group that has worked for decades to help make Tower Ridge what it is today, is partnering with Eau Claire County to update not only the equipment needed for proper and timely grooming, but also the entire approach to how grooming is conducted.

1. The Equipment

Two quality products with tillers to manipulate heavy snows and ice are available — a Piston Bully 100 and a Favero Snow Rabbit 3. The team has selected the Snow Rabbit because while being a highly capable machine well-suited to our area trails, it is also half the cost and half the weight, making trailer transportation much more feasible. And notably, this unit fits into the existing storage building at Tower Ridge, where a Piston Bully could not.

Along with the main unit, we’ll be purchasing the large tiller package with a hydraulic roll, and a classic track setter with an independent lift system. It will come from Track, Inc, out of their Monico, WI branch.

Eau Claire County Parks and Forest

Once purchased, the Snow Rabbit will be maintained and owned by Eau Claire County Parks and Forestry Department. All costs and expenses after the handover will be the responsibility of the County. It will be operated by a combination of Eau Claire County employees along with volunteers and seasonal employees who have backgrounds in grooming and cross county skiing.

Although primarily used and stored at Tower Ridge, this equipment is easily transported, and if available, may be used at other county parks and possibly even Eau Claire city parks if an arrangement is made with the City.

2. The Approach

Those familiar with winter grooming may also realize that new equipment alone may not be enough. How and when equipment is operated is also key. Traditionally, grooming activities have been limited by the time and budgets of the County and its staff, which can mean less-than-optimum results based on timing and temperatures.

To aid in maximizing the value new equipment can bring the community, the County has agreed to explore a partnership with the Ski Striders to solicit trained volunteers and seasonal part-time employees to assist with grooming activities whenever snows and conditions warrant it — this can mean evenings, early mornings, weekends, or holidays.

This approach can only work if the community steps up to participate. Those interested in potentially taking part in this new approach should visit the Volunteer page on this site to learn more.

3. The Fundraising

The total funds required for this project are just under $200,000, with equipment costs totaling approximately $180,000 of that. Remaining funds will go toward related project expenses, and toward upgrades to the Eau Claire Ski Striders communications and storytelling throughout the community, ensuring a bright and strong foundation into the future.

A combination of funding sources are being sought, including public funds from Eau Claire County, writing for local and regional grants from multiple foundations and programs, and contributions from individuals, businesses, and organizations that see the value winter outdoor recreation provides our community.

The campaign’s goal is to raise the needed funds throughout the first three quarters of 2023 and to purchase, implement, and train on the new equipment in the fourth quarter of 2023 so it may be fully in use by the 2023-2024 ski season.

Those who contribute will be recognized throughout the campaign and at Tower Ridge on custom signage.