Backup plan for broken groomer at Birds Hills Provincial Park appeases skiers

BIRDS HILL PROVINCIAL PARK –

One of Manitoba’s most popular cross-country ski areas is gearing up for another season even though it may not have a key piece of equipment back in time.

A machine used to groom the trails at Birds Hill Provincial Park broke down last season and it’s still being fixed but that didn’t stop skiers Thursday from enjoying an early season outing.

“It’s not groomed yet so it’s all skied in, skier skied in, but we’ll take what we have. It’s beautiful,” said Nancy Lovenjak, who was among several people out skiing.

Boasting a network of more than 36 kilometres of trails, the park is a popular destination close to Winnipeg for a winter activity that got a boost in popularity amid the pandemic.

“Last year the skiing was beautiful and easy and I’m happy to make do,” said Brina Larsen, who took up skiing last season.

A provincial spokesperson said the machine groomer is expected to be fully repaired and ready for service in the coming weeks.

“Until then, Manitoba Parks has a snowmobile and trail setter at its disposal in the event there is sufficient snow to pack and groom,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “That is not currently the case.”

The Cross Country Ski Association of Manitoba’s recreational skiing committee said in an email if the province has a four-foot leveller and track setter that can be pulled by one of the park’s snowmobiles that’s great news for the classic style ski trails.

The committee hopes the equipment can be used as a permanent backup and in early season or low snow conditions which aren’t suitable for the larger machine groomer that’s being fixed.

For now, the trails at Birds Hill remain skier groomed only but with more snow falling many are hoping they’ll be machine groomed sooner rather than later.

Crews were observed packing the trails Thursday, an encouraging sign for people who have been eager to get striding and gliding as early as possible.

“If we had a little bit more snow and then they can just put down those tracks, otherwise your ankles are always wobbling,” said Lovenjak. “But anyway we’re still outside and getting some exercise so we shouldn’t really complain.”

There’s no word on exactly when the ski trails at Birds Hill will be groomed or if Thursday’s snowfall was sufficient enough to allow crews to start doing so.

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