Fat biking has become increasingly popular alongside traditional outdoor winter activities which require trail grooming. Pictured: A fat bike on an ungroomed trail in 2020. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Fat biking has become increasingly popular alongside traditional outdoor winter activities which require trail grooming. Pictured: A fat bike on an ungroomed trail in 2020. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Coordinated winter grooming in place for Fernie’s trails

The Winter Trails Collaborative is on for a second year

Trails around Fernie will be groomed via a collaborative agreement for the second year in a row, with $47,000 in funding for the Winter Trails Collaborative coming through Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funding.

The City of Fernie formally approved the RMI funds for the collaborative on Dec. 13 at the regular council meeting, with the $47,000 going towards multiple groups which are coordinating grooming in different areas around town.

Groups involved in the collaborative collectively groom between 100-112 km of trails.

For the previous season, the city had similarly approved $37,000 for the program, which was a pilot program for the 2020-2021 year. 46.5km of trails were groomed that year.

Jikke Gyorki of Tourism Fernie said that the continuation of the collaborative was vital for improving tourism access around Fernie, with the RMI funding being channelled towards ‘gaps’ in the network.

“Without the funding support we could see certain trail areas not groomed at all,” she said, adding that they were seeing significant growth in outdoor activities year-on-year, including in areas without sufficient supporting infrastructure, like parking.

“By adding funding … we’re dealing with demand,” she said.

Some of the funding will be used to keep car parks clear, and access to public washrooms open through the season.

“We have to provide (volunteer groups) with support to keep them going,” said Gyorki. “We wouldn’t have as many trails open (without them), and we wouldn’t have them as accessible as they are now.

“We’ve seen the growth in mountain biking, fat biking, nordic skiing and even trail running on those trails. We need to continue to expand the trails that are available with the grooming that’s required.”

The funding is shared between the Fernie Nordic Society for grooming trails at the Elk Valley Nordic Centre and Fernie Golf Club, the Fernie Nordic Society and Fernie Trails Alliance (combined) for clearing parking lots and maintaining toilets in the Mt Fernie Provincial Park (specifically the overflow and Hedonism parking lots), the Fernie Trails Alliance for grooming trails on Crown, Canwel and City land, and the Coal Creek Heritage Society for grooming of Ridgemont and Montane Trails, as well as the renting and maintenance of publicly-available toilets.

In the pilot program last year, 46.5km of trails were groomed through the season. For the 2021-2022 season, over 100km of trails will be groomed, with the Fernie Nordic Society responsible for 20km of trails, the Fernie Trails Alliance responsible for between 16 and 26km and the Coal Creek Heritage Society responsible for 40km.

Additionally, another 12km of city trails are groomed (but not by the Fernie Nordic Society or Fernie Trails Alliance), and 12km of trails at the Fernie Alpine Resort are groomed.

A new winter trails map will be available in print for locals and visitors alike in coming weeks.

READ MORE: Fernie edges towards a new skate park



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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