As the El Niño winter drags on, the warm temperatures and lack of snow are presenting challenges to both those who use and enjoy Kimberley’s trails, and those who maintain them.
“As we navigate through this winter season in Kimberley, one thing is abundantly clear – the snow has been sparse,” said Ryan McKenzie, general manager of the Kimberley Trails Society (KTS).
“For winter enthusiasts, this presents both challenges and opportunities. While we may not have the usual thick soft blanket of white covering our trails, there’s still plenty of ways to enjoy the outdoors.”
McKenzie points out that enthusiasts of winter sports and other activities know the importance of adaptability, as it’s never certain what the weather will do.
“When skiing conditions are less than ideal, there are alternatives aplenty,” McKenzie said. “Thanks to organizations like KTS and Friends of Lois Creek, efforts are underway to maintain and groom our trails, ensuring that regardless of snowfall, there’s always something for everyone.”
A big component of those efforts is handled by the two snowdog trail grooming machines that KTS owns, plus the additional support of Tom Peters who lends the use of his own snowdog to help with grooming work.
McKenzie said significant hours are put in by these groups to keep the trails in prime condition, as grooming each of the loops in Lois Creek and the Forest Crown-Nature Park-Levirs network takes two to three hours.
“Let it be noted that this is a full body workout and the first few times each season leave you feeling more like you finished a wrestling match,” McKenzie said. “When conditions are really soft the snowdog tends to have a mind of its own, when conditions get icy, you often have to jump off and chase the Snowdog up a hill, full gate in winter boots. It’s a labour of love that’s actually as fun as many other winter sports.”
He added that’s it’s more than just a labour of love, however, it is a community effort. When people buy their annual Trail Pass, for a $40 donation available at kimberleytrails.org or at outdoor stores around town, they are directly supporting the program.
Kimberley’s fatbike-riding community has taken the lead in these grooming efforts, but McKenzie said that it’s important to remember the trails are for everyone. As they are mixed-use spaces, certain responsibilities and etiquette are necessary, which is why a winter grooming and trail-conditions page was started on Facebook.
The page is called Kimberley Winter Trail Conditions, and it encourages trail users to communicate with each other and keep themselves informed about what kind of shape the area’s trails are in. The group always welcomes new volunteers who can help snowshoe, ski, groom, or contribute to any of the other yearly tasks involving with winter trail maintenance.
McKenzie laid out a few pieces of etiquette to help users enjoy and preserve the area’s trails through the winter.
When, while walking or running, you find yourself sinking into the snow, the best thing to do is to discontinue your travel. Stick to the groomed loop and avoid walking on classic ski tracks or creating large holes in the walking track.
Snowshoers are welcome on the groomed loop and are encouraged to create their own paths in deeper snow, but they are asked to refrain from snowshoeing on classic ski trails and to ensure they leave room for skiers on the double-wide trails.
Winter fatbiking is welcomed on all trails suitable for foot and snowshoe travel, you’re just asked to check tire width recommendations and utilize the groomed loop set specifically for fat biking.
Cross-country skiing is allowed on all trails and the tracks are set by the users, just remember to stick to one side of the trail. If you are the first one on a trail after a snowfall, continue to set tracks to one side.
“As we embrace the winter season in Kimberley, let’s remember to respect our trails and fellow outdoor enthusiasts,” McKenzie said. “By following these simple guidelines, we can all enjoy the beauty of our winter landscape while ensuring its preservation for years to come. So, grab your gear, hit the trails, and let’s make the most of this winter, whatever the snow conditions may be.”