The Montane and Ridgemont trail networks are ready for winter use, but will require more work come spring to repair damage sustained during November’s floods.
The lower-elevation Montane trails were hit the hardest, though Ridgemont will need some work too, said Pat Gilmar, a director with the Coal Creek Heritage Society (CCHS), which maintains the two trail networks.
After the flood events, they replaced culverts, fixed surfaces, and did some ditching on the Montane trails.
“We got them back into use for winter. But come spring-summer, we have to do some major rebuilding,” Gilmar said.
There is a lot of rutting and wash-outs, and drainages “need to be improved quite a bit.”
For now, on the Montane trails, they snowcat groom and snowmobile groom eight kilometres of Nordic trail. They also snowmobile groom about 25 kilometres of single track multi-use trails for snow-biking, hiking, and skiing.
The work was going “fairly well” until the most recent surge of snow and cold weather. They fell about a week behind on grooming as a result, but planned to catch up by New Year’s weekend.
“Extremely cold temperature is hard on equipment, and on people running the equipment.”
He said it’s “very important” that people understand soft conditions. There are guidelines not to post-hole a groomed trail — meaning, when someone walks on fresh snow without snowshoes and sinks deep with every step.
“Post-holing trails, and cycling them when’re they’re too soft, causes a lot of temporary damage and ruins a lot of volunteer effort.”
Tourism Fernie is helping provide signage that warns against post-holing (and not picking up pet waste). One of the signs reads that freshly groomed trails might take some time to set and firm up. The sign also says that Montane Blue Multi-Use trails are for non-motorized winter activities.
“It’s important for trail users to understand trail etiquette so that everybody can enjoy the trails,” Gilmar said.
“We encourage people in soft conditions: put on your snowshoes, go snowshoeing, help compact the trails, and don’t degrade the trails.”
Otherwise, Montane and Ridgemont trails are open for winter use.
“Lots of snow to work this year. It’s a true winter.”