Mount Spokane gets $300,000 for new nordic ski trail groomer

Mount Spokane State Park will get $300,000 from Sno-Park funds to replace the underpowered snowcat groomer, above. (Rich Landers)
Mount Spokane State Park will get $300,000 from Sno-Park funds to replace the underpowered snowcat groomer, above. (Rich Landers)

Washington’s Winter Recreation Advisory Committee has approved $300,000 to purchase a larger snowcat groomer to maintain the 30 kilometers of nordic trails at Mount Spokane State Park.

George Momany, the Spokane-region citizen representative on the panel, said the decision was made last weekend. The committee administers money collected by Washington Sno-Park permits for snowmobiling, nordic skiing and snowshoeing programs.

The long-sought appropriation should allow the state park staff to begin widening trails this summer to accommodate the new groomer.

“It had to work up through the priorities because there’s a lot of competition across the state for Sno-Park funds,” Momany said.

Last year the winter rec program opened a new Sno-Park area at Bumping Lake near Yakima, he said. “And there’s constant work to maintain the Sno-Park areas and the integrity of the easements.”

Washington clears snow for winter recreational access at more than 120 Sno-Parks statewide, including three at Mount Spokane. The state provides access and partners for grooming at about 80 Sno-Parks designated primarily for snowmobiling access, while about 30 are primarily for non-motorized recreation.

Steve Christensen, Mount Spokane State Park manager, has been campaigning for a more powerful groomer for years.

“A bigger groomer will cost more in the beginning, but it will save money in the long run,” he said.

“The smaller groomers we’ve been using are underpowered for the amount and type of snow we get at Mount Spokane, and that results in more breakdowns,” he said.

“Once we get the trails to the right width, a bigger groomer will be able to work most trails in one pass. That will allow us to groom more miles of trail faster without leaving the rough berm in the middle that you get from double-pass grooming. Skaters will love that.”

While Washington State Parks have been drastically cutting back staff and operations, the groomer purchase is possible because the winter recreation program is user-funded by people who purchase Sno-Park permits for their vehicles, he said.

Sno-Park permits have been sold for years to facilitate winter recreation with trail grooming for snowmobiles and cross-country skiers as well as snow plowing parking areas at recreation sites.

Sno-Park permits are distinct from the Discover Pass the Washington Legislature created last year to help fund State Parks.

“That’s why it’s preferable to parks like Mount Spokane that have big winter recreation programs to keep the Sno-Park funds separate from the Discover Pass funds,” Christensen said. “This way we have reasonably steady funding from users so we can plan ahead for these expenses.”

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