The Elkford Trails Alliance (ETA) has upped their grooming efficiency this winter with a new team member: a snowdog.
The little machine works pretty hard, towing a sled where the driver stands, and between the weight of the person and the machine itself, packs down snow, said Katherine Russell, vice president of the ETA.
The machine lets groomers get trails ready for winter sports like fatbiking, back-country skiing, winter hiking, and snowshoeing.
“It just makes these trails way more accessible to different sports,” Russell said.
“It’s new and exciting for us, so we’re just super pumped about this.”
They got the snowdog from Cranbrook at the end of last winter. It was funded by grants from the Elkford Project Society ($6,500) and the East Kootenay Credit Union ($10,000).
Regarding its effect on efficiency, Russell said “it’s everything” and “it’s amazing.” It’s a workout to operate and comes with a learning curve. A couple of the ETA’s board members are trained to groom with it.
“You have to be pretty darn big and strong and fit to operate it, to be honest. It’s a handful.”
But, it’s working really well, Russell said.
“They’re learning a ton of tricks every time they go out. It’s getting easier and easier.”
The ETA’s first year in operation was “phenomenal”, Russell said, though there is a lot more “behind-the-scenes” work aside from building and grooming trails than she initially anticipated.
They currently groom and maintain between about 25 to 30 kilometres of trail in the Elkford area.
“This fall, we built our first trail that was started and finished by us.”
That trail has no official name yet, but Russell said it’s known as the Lost Lake Loop trail, running about four kilometres. It starts around the Esso and connects to the Josephine Falls trail network.
The ETA has a few different proposals submitted for new trails around Elkford.
“We have lots of things in the works… We’re waiting back from the province to see what we’re allowed to do, what we’re able to do.”
Russell anticipates the ETA to be busy this summer, but it all depends on grants and proposal approvals.
She said she really appreciates when people become members to help cover operating costs. They currently have around 50 members.