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Priest Lake Nordic Club fundraises for new trail groomer

by EMILY BONSANT
Staff Writer | September 15, 2021 1:00 AM

PRIEST LAKE — The Priest Lake Nordic Club is raising money for equipment to continue grooming trails this coming winter season.

Since the mid-1980s, volunteers with the Priest River Nordic Club have been grooming trails at Hanna Flats, Chipmunk Rapids and the Priest Lake Golf Course. The 30 miles of trails are groomed with classic Nordic, skate skiing, snowshoeing and fat tire bike riding in mind.

The funds being raised will go to a second, specialized groomer for Nordic ski trail maintenance. Having a second groomer will enable the team of volunteers to groom the growing trail network faster and more consistently, club members said on their GoFundMe page.

A second groomer would also provide a back-up in the event existing groomer breaks and needs repairs. So far they have raised $1,900 for a second groomer and are fundraising for another $5,000.

Last season, more winter sport enthusiasts used the trails than in past years, said Tom Weitz, president of the Priest Lake Nordic Club. The club hopes to meet the needs of the trails’ popularity and the added maintenance needed for the upcoming winter sport season.

Once the fire danger has passed, the Priest Lake Nordic Club will organize a work party on the trails to clear up brush and thin trees if necessary, Weitz said. Last fall the club put over 200 hours in maintaining the Chipmunk Rapids trails.

“I think part of that is [because of] COVID, people are cooped up, and they're getting out more and they're not traveling. So we've seen much more usage,” he said.

Before when Weitz would go ski Hanna Flats, he said he might see one or two other people. Last year, Weitz, a frequent visitor to the trail, saw between five to 15 others whenever he went on the trail — which is about 40 times in the winter season.

“It is great to see more people out there,” said Weitz.

“We are all volunteers. Our primary objectives are to provide winter recreation opportunities for the public in the Priest Lake area,” said Weitz. “This is done by grooming the trails and providing educational and recreation ski programs for elementary school children.”

The ski program includes the Priest Lake Nordic Club teaching 100 to 200 kids basic Nordic ski instruction on the Priest Lake golf course.

The club consists of about 45 Nordic enthusiasts and is growing. There are about 7 people that are trained to operate the groomers and help with the trail grooming, said Weitz.

Club is a co-sponsor of the Idaho Parks and Recreation annual “Free Ski Day” at the Indian Creek Unit of the Priest Lake State Park.

The club does not have memberships fees, but anyone wanting to support the maintenance of winter trails or would like to access these trails should purchase a Park N’ Ski permit. For $25, this pass allows Nordic enthusiasts to park their car and access these locations all season.

The sticker pays for everyone in the vehicle. When purchasing the stickers, designate the area the pass is for. The percentage of the funds will then go back to the Priest Lake Nordic Club for future maintenance of trails.

Follow them on Facebook & Instagram @PriestLakeNordic.

Their GoFundMe is called Priest Lake Nordic Club - New Groomer Fundraiser