The days are getting shorter, and for many of us in Central Oregon, that brings happy thoughts of snow soon to come.
There are a variety of ways to enjoy the winter wonders of this region, and if you’re more inclined to quieter forms of recreation in snow country, there is a great network of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails available nearby.
Most folks are familiar with the Meissner Nordic Community. The Meissner folks maintain about 25 miles of groomed trails out of the Meissner Sno-park. It’s a popular spot, and since it is the first sno-park you get to as you drive toward Mount Bachelor, it is probably the most well-known of the sno-parks in the region.
They are not the only act in town, though. A network of fat bike and dog-friendly groomed ski and snowshoe trails are maintained at Wanoga Sno-Park by Central Oregon Trail Alliance, DogPac and the Central Oregon Nordic Club — the group I am associated with — maintains about 70 miles of ungroomed ski trails and roughly 20 miles of snowshoe trails out of seven sno-parks in the Deschutes National Forest.
The ungroomed ski and snowshoe trails within the trail system maintained by CONC gives folks a variety of winter experiences. You can do relatively short skis on easy terrain, or do a shuttle and have a lively long ski from Dutchman Flat to Swampy Lakes on the winter version of the Flagline Trail. You can use the trails above Dutchman Sno-park to access the open country of the Three Sisters Wilderness. You can access one of the many shelters we maintain. And you can even ski or snowshoe to Paulina Lake lodge and order lunch!
Keeping these trails in good condition for skiing and shoeing requires maintenance year-round. In the summer, we clear trees, trim brush and hang assurance markers so the trails are fun and easy to follow. Some of our winter trails are also hiking, horse and mountain bike trails, so we work in cooperation with COTA and others who maintain summer trails. In the winter, we need to check for downed trees after windstorms to make sure that the ski and shoe routes remain clear. And every fall, we stock five shelters with firewood so that skiers and snowshoers can enjoy a nice break next to a cozy fire.
Central Oregon Nordic Club is also looking ahead. We maintain the trails under a volunteer agreement with the U.S. Forest Service. The network of trails in our stewardship is not much bigger than it was 30 years ago, yet wintertime usage has grown a lot. The popularity of snowshoe travel has really taken off in recent years. And 20 years ago, who would have predicted that fat bikes would be a thing? So we are working with the Forest Service on plans to add several miles of ski and snowshoe trails, and rerouting some others to protect sensitive wildlife areas and improve the experience for users.
If you are interested in learning more about what we do, or finding more about the ski and snowshoe trails in the area, or if you would like to join our volunteer effort, you can check out our website at conordicclub.org.