MARSHFIELD, WI (OnFocus) The Marshfield Area Ski Touring Foundation (MASTF) has coped with large amounts of snowfall this winter as it works to keep the cross country ski and bike trails at the School Forest in top shape.
In February, the grooming crew spent over 100 hours and purchased over 130 gallons of fuel in just three weeks. During an average winter, the group might spend 8-10 hours a week working the trails, but the excessive snowfall last month doubled that time.
“During February we were out there almost every day. The snow kept coming so fast, we just couldn’t deal with it,” said Randy Lueth, MASTF president.
The nonprofit maintains 12km of ski trail and about 4.5 miles of snow bike trails using snowmobiles, ski-trail grooming sleds, and a bike grooming roller. About 10 people work two shifts, one during the week and the other Friday through Sunday. One pass through the ski trails takes around 4-5 hours to complete.
The club resorted to creative ways to deal with the extra fluff, including sending out a plea to snowshoers to stomp down the bike trail so the groomer could get through. A local offered the use of his bulldozer-sized ski groomer so the club could have a machine heavy enough to work the whole trail system and catch up on maintenance.
“We were compacting the top inches, and then under that we had 10 inches of powder and we’d break through the top crust,” explained Lueth. “That helped quite a bit, and we’ve been able to keep up since.”
Since its founding in 1991, the club has done its best to provide a smooth, skiable surface each winter through classic grooming with space in the middle for technique skiing. Snowshoers should stay off this middle section but are welcome to walk on the outer edges to compact the area where skiers insert their poles. They can also make use of the snow bike trails.
The bike trails are a more recent addition to the system, first opened in 2016. Fat biking is a booming sport which extends the biking season all year long.
“Bike trails have been a great way to have a whole new group of people out in the winter and provided more variety for the snowshoers,” said Lueth.
Club operations are funded through daily and seasonal passes, offered at the lodge on weekends or at The Sports Den. Proceeds cover costs related to trail maintenance such as fuel, new trail construction, upgrading and fixing equipment, and insurance. A daily pass is just $5, paid at the trailhead, $35 for a season pass, or $45 for a family pass.
Marshfield School Forest is located at 11450 County Rd N and is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through March 31, then until 9 p.m. starting April 1.