By Jessianne Wright EBS Contributor
BIG SKY – With the changing face of Town Center as several major building projects take shape, discussions are also stirring about the future of winter use on Town Center’s trails. In past years, Lone Mountain Ranch has maintained grooming work both on their own network of cross-country ski trails and also for those trails managed by the Big Sky Community Organization.
However, due to accessibility constraints this winter, Lone Mountain Ranch has not been able to maintain trails near Town Center.
“They aren’t groomed this year because of construction,” said Ryan Kunz, general manager of Lone Mountain Ranch. “We aren’t able to get our machines there.”
While the majority of the trails in Town Center that BSCO manages haven’t been maintained this winter, BSCO was able to secure maintenance for Lone Peak trail from Town Center to Meadow Village, as well as the Ousel Falls Road trail. The former is regularly plowed while the latter is machine compacted to make an easier surface to walk on.
“All other trails are not maintained by machine for winter use, but see more than enough traffic to allow for a great surface for all uses,” said Adam Johnson, the BSCO project manager.
Services for Lone Peak trail and Ousel Falls Road trail are being donated by Delzer Diversified, a 30-year-old Big Sky snow removal company serving 80 miles of roads in the area. “It’s just a little bit to give back to the community,” said owner and long-time Big Sky resident John Delzer.
“I’ll help where I can. I think it’s important to keep people from walking on the roads,” he added, referring to the company’s decision to help plow Lone Peak trail, which runs along Lone Mountain Trail.
“[Delzer Diversified] really stepped up to the plate to make sure we had these services this winter. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to afford it,” said BSCO Executive Director Ciara Wolfe, adding that BSCO funding was reduced by the Big Sky Resort Area District tax board this year.
Kunz said Lone Mountain Ranch will be working with BSCO and Town Center in the offseason in order to plan for the long-term, with the hopes of picking up grooming once again in the future.
In addition to making plans for grooming existing trails, Wolfe said BSCO is interested in adding to the existing network of trails. “Nothing is defined at this time, we just recognize that the trail system was significantly missed this winter,” Wolfe said.
Big Sky Town Center project manager Ryan Hamilton added to this sentiment. “Long-term, we are planning on there being walking and Nordic ski trails in the 30-plus acres of current vacant land in Town Center, south of Aspen Leaf Drive and east of Simkins Drive,” he said.
Johnson has spearheaded the trail effort for BSCO and said, “My desire for the groomed trails is to provide access to outdoor activity that does not revolve around the ski resorts, and is available to multiple user groups. … Most importantly, we have very few sidewalks in Big Sky and during the winter, the roads get narrow and are treacherous for walking. Maintained winter trails give those who do not have or chose not to rely on cars a way to safely get around town.
“I have recently heard people comparing Big Sky to the Alps, but you should take a look at the winter path systems the Alps have, they are incredible and even include maintained hiking trails up the ski areas where you can take the lift down,” Johnson added.
In a December email to EBS, Wolfe said that BSCO has met with the Bridger Ski Foundation in Bozeman, the Teton Valley Trails and Pathways in Driggs, Idaho, as well as folks from Jackson, Wyoming, to learn what other communities are doing to manage their winter trails. “This season I think will raise awareness for the community about how important these trails are, and that we have to plan and partner to ensure they continue,” Wolfe wrote.