Will Smith of Spokane finally will get a chance to sleep through the night now that the Mount Spokane cross country ski trail grooming has ended for the season.
Smith worked midnight to 8:30 a.m. five days a week through the winter to set tracks on 25 kilometers of trails at the state park.
Working alone, in the night, through fresh snow, Smith routinely sees signs of the mountain’s wildlife, including tracks of snowshoe hares, coyotes, grouse, cougars, moose and night-prowling snowmobilers.
“I didn’t actually see a cougar this season, but I was close, judging by the tracks,” he said.
Although he encounters some nasty conditions - including blizzards that make it tough to see the plow on the track setter - Smith maintains radio contact with a park ranger through the night.
“If I have a problem, somebody gets on a snowmobile and comes right out to help,” he said.
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission provided Smith with a new $80,000 groomer this year. “It took some getting used to, but it’s a good machine,” he said.
Indeed, the grooming has been so good at Mount Spokane this season, some skate-skiers protested last Sunday’s shutdown of grooming operations.
“We just ran out of grooming money for the year,” said Pete Wood, park manager. “The use was down to just a few skiers last week. We couldn’t justify running the groomer any longer.”