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Cross-Country Ski Trail Grooming at Castle in the Clouds Conservation Area

January 31, 2023

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Updated January 16th, 2024

Ski grooming is provided free of charge courtesy of the Lakes Region Conservation Trust. The grooming is done by a dedicated team of volunteers as conditions allow. Updates will be posted on this page throughout the 2024 ski season. 

Cross-country ski grooming has not begun for the 2024 ski season. Stay tuned.

What to Expect:

  • Trails will be groomed by volunteers periodically and as conditions allow. Please keep in mind our trails are not professionally groomed and can be a little rugged.
  • All of our trails (whether groomed or not) are open to cross-country skiing. We are grooming select trails to provide free easy access for all levels of skiers.
  • Updates will be posted to the Lakes Region Conservation Trust’s website and Facebook page. 
  • Grooming may occur at any time, please be aware and step to the side to let the groomer pass.
  • The trails are not individually rated with a level of difficulty, but are generally easy to moderate.
  • Due to the width and general condition of the trails the optimal skis to use are classic skis (opposed to skate skis).
  • What does a “snowmobile packed” trail mean? This means we have driven the snowmobile on the trail to pack down the snow on the trail, but have not dragged the groomer behind the snowmobile which would make the typical “corduroy.”

Castle in the Clouds Conservation Area hiking trail maps are available in LRCT’s online store.

Groomed Ski Trail Etiquette

Be nice to the trails! It’s hard work for LRCT staff & volunteers to maintain them.

  • Trails are groomed for cross-country skiers.
  • Snowshoers, please be respectful of groomed trails and walk along the side.
  • Dogs are allowed with their masters on LRCT-owned property provided that the dogs are under leash or verbal control at all times, with certain exceptions.
  • Please, no walking in bare boots or microspikes.
  • No fatbiking.

Trail Updates

Cross-country ski grooming has not begun for the 2024 ski season. Stay tuned.

March 1st 2023:

At long last, the region was blanketed with a decent amount of snow! LRCT Staff were able to get out on this beautiful morning to pack and groom our trails with no washouts in sight. All the cross-country trails (aside from the stretch of the Settlement Trail that starts at the loop and ends at the bridge) have been track set, bringing us to around 2 miles of groomed trails. 

More snow is on the way, which has our volunteers ready and excited to get out there and groom. Stay tuned for more updates!

 

January 31st, 2023:

Our trusty volunteers were able to get out yesterday and lay down some corduroy for the first time this winter! However, the distance is relatively short due to a washout on the Settlement Trail that continues to grow and lack of groomable snow.

For now, there is a nice skiable surface from the old horse barn to the split between the Mt Roberts Trail and the Settlement Trail and another ¼ mile down the Settlement Trail. The groomed trails include the top of the lower pasture and circling back to the barn.

Enjoy the trails and remember: think snow!

 

 January 26th: Snow Report #1: 

At long last, winter is here! The storm on Monday (1/23) brought a foot of beautiful powder, enough snow to finally get our snowmobile out and to begin packing some trails in preparation for grooming. There was very little snow base prior to this storm, so more snow is still needed before we can groom with the track-set on the Settlement Trail. This is due to a couple of open drainages that cross the trail – one big storm should make these passable with the groomer. We did, however, “machine pack” (track out with the snowmobile) the Settlement Trail, the Mt. Roberts Trail between the Settlement Trail and the Upper/Lower Meadow Connector, the Upper/Lower Meadow Connector, and a path through the Lower Meadow from the Meadow Connector to the Hiker Parking Lot. Also a small loop in the lower field was packed. The machine packed routes are shown on the map below.

View Cross-Country Ski Trail Map

Conditions as of Wednesday (1/25) afternoon: The trails listed above, and shown on the map, were machine packed and the conditions were consistent packed powder, with zero ice or bare spots. Excellent conditions overall. The two drainages that cross the Settlement Trail remained open and require stepping over.

Storm on Wednesday night (1/25): The snow conditions have not been assessed since the most recent storm, and no additional grooming has occurred. About three to four inches of soft, wet snow was reported. This, on top of the machine packed routes, should provide for great skiing, even without being groomed.

We will continue to provide updates here as they occur. We will plan on packing and grooming the trails as conditions and schedules provide… stay tuned, and happy skiing!

February 26, 2022:

The Settlement Trail and one loop around the upper field have been packed since our recent snowfall! The fresh snow was around 4 to 8 inches, depending upon the exposure and wind. The field barely had enough snow to pack but is still proving to be good skiing regardless. The Settlement Trail has a thick (8+ inch) base of frozen snow that at several locations was washed out due to previous snowmelt. Packing helped level the trail and provided a pretty good ski-able surface for the time being. Overall, more snow will be needed in order to groom. 
 

February 11, 2022:

After chipping the groomer out of a block of ice, our trusty volunteers packed and set track on the Settlement trail and Upper/Lower Meadow Connector Trails just in time for the weekend! Sources say the trails are beautiful – Enjoy!
 

February 2, 2022:

Exciting news: The Settlement Trail and Upper/Lower Meadow Connector Trails are now groomed and ready to go! Our volunteers were able to groom in perfect conditions yesterday and will continue to groom throughout the week. If all goes according to plan, there will be fresh snow to groom come this weekend. Think snow!

 

January 31, 2022:

The first full packing run for the season has been completed! The Settlement and the Upper/Lower Meadow Connector trails are now packed down, distinguishable, and ready to be groomed. However, grooming the trails proved to be difficult due to how light the snow was this weekend. Our valiant volunteers will give the grooming another go later this week. Stay tuned!
 

January 24, 2022:

In short, more snow is needed before grooming can occur.  The snowpack and conditions are extremely variable and firm on the trails we groom.  The last storm provided a good amount of snow, but the strong winds that came with it created substantial snowdrifts and large areas of thin base from wind scouring.  On top of that, the storm finished with heavy rain followed by a rapid freeze resulting in a significant crust on top of everything.  The saturated snowdrifts set up very firm, so firm that the snowmobile with the weight of two people would not collapse them, and the scoured areas turned icy.  These conditions made it very difficult to operate the snowmobile and impossible to drag the groomer.
 
Our groomers were able to track out (“machine pack”) the Settlement Trail loop and the Upper/Lower Meadow Connector with the snowmobile.  However, the tracks through the fields are hardly discernible as the snowmobile imparted minimal surface manipulation due to the firmness of the snow – not very friendly for skiing.  The wooded trails were a skosh more supple with the best conditions being on the Settlement Trail where the snowmobile track could better loosen the surface, though much of the route remains firm.  
 
Until there is more snow to groom over the current conditions, skiing efforts will be better rewarded to the north, where the rain did not occur.  The good news is that we are ready!  There is a solid (very) base and we are poised to roll out corduroy with the next storm, at which point we will install trail signs and issue an update on the conditions and grooming status.  In the meantime, we’ll keep our microspikes handy and pray for snow!
 

January 18, 2022:

We’re gearing up to start grooming the trails in the near future!