As the soft summer air begins its rapid recoil and the winter chill tumbles out of the mountains, the Blaine County Recreation District is beginning to shift its focus from aquatic-based activity to snow-based adventure.
This winter the world-class Nordic ski trails that run from Galena Lodge to Ketchum, from Ketchum south to Quigley Canyon and then on to Bellevue are readying for another stellar year. Several capital improvement projects that will lend to better skiing and more comfort are set for completion prior to the season.
"The Murphy's Bridge replacement is going well," said Eric Rector, director of trails, facilities and operations for the Blaine County Recreation District. "The new bridge could be in place by the end of the week."
After that construction crews will still need to put decking and other finishing touches on the bridge. Rector said the project would be complete well before the open of the Nordic ski season.
Murphy's Bridge is located along the Harriman Trail, roughly 10 miles north of Ketchum. The old, narrow log bridge could not support grooming machines that lay down cross-country ski tracks.
Aside from enhanced skiing, the new bridge will have financial benefits as well. Last year the grooming snowcat, which costs $175 an hour to operate, made a 45-minute to one-hour detour around the bridge each of the approximately 100 days that it was in use during the winter.
Thanks to a large, anonymous donation last spring, the district acquired a new Pisten Bully 200 grooming machine, featuring "state-of'-the--art technology," Rector said.
Despite some modern upgrades, Galena Lodge still holds its rustic appeal. This winter the lodge will introduce the new and improved Star's Perch Yurt, offering a touch of luxury to overnight visitors. Galena Lodge's antiquated septic system has also been removed and replaced. The lodge will officially open for the winter season Nov. 17 and again will offer full moon and special event dinners.
The Galena Trails Master Plan is also underway. Although the trail system will not see changes this year, local nonprofit Big Wood Backcountry Trails has provided a catalyst for change, commissioning the International Mountain Biking Association's Trail Solutions, to redesign Galena's trail system. The goal is to design sustainable trails that minimize user impacts on the natural environment.
"Most of the trails are laid on old mining roads," said Don Shepler, co-operator of Galena Lodge, in a July meeting. "And most were built to go from point A to point B," meaning little to no thought was put toward sustainability and the impacts the roads would have on surrounding watersheds.
The new trial design will be based on a "stacked loop system," a design that lays out pathways in roughly concentric circles with Galena Lodge at the center. Beginner trials will constitute the inside rings, with intermediate trails farther out and the most difficult trails on the periphery. A timeline for the project will depend on the degree of environmental impact studies required by the U.S. Forest Service.
Pass sales for the Nordic season will go on sale this Monday, Oct. 1. Purchases made before October 14 will receive $30 off. For the first time the Recreation District will offer Quigley Passes to skiers who find themselves predominantly in Quigley Canyon near Hailey.
Also, beginning Wednesday, Oct. 3, will be dry-land training at the Community Campus in Hailey. Dry-land training features a full repertoire of Nordic-based exercises taught by trainer EJ Harpham. The activities are designed to assist all manner of cross-country skiers return to form after months of easy summer-living. Dry-land training will run every Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m., through Oct. 31. Students will have a chance of winning a North Valley Trails season pass.
For more information on the Nordic season and pass prices, visit the Blaine County Recreation District Web site at www.bcrd.org, or visit the district office at the Community Campus in Hailey.
In the meantime, "everyone get excited and pray for snow," Rector said.