A Pilot Project

As many winter trail users in the Minnedosa region know, grooming for the satisfaction of all winter trail users including walkers, runners, snowshoers and fat bikers is a challenging task (cross-country ski trails are ALWAYS to be avoided by non-skiers).

Spring, summer and fall are easy—every trail is multi-use. The trails remain multi-use in winter, but the season can bring with it certain trail grooming challenges that often result in certain trails being designated for specific uses.

As we move into winter trail management with a partially built new trail park at the Squirrel Hills Recreation Area, we wanted to develop a deeper understanding of winter trail management best practises. To do so, we recently connected with trail organizations in both Portage La Prairie, Manitoba and Bragg Creek, Alberta to seek input from their decades of winter trail grooming experience.

What we learned has led Valley Life Recreation to decide on piloting something new for the Minnedosa area.

We have come to understand that if enough runners, walkers, snowshoers, cyclists use the same winter trail, in combination with quality trail grooming, it creates an amazing experience for all groups. But getting enough users on the trails and users who also know what responsible winter trail use looks like is key.

✅ For example, 50 – 100 hikers/runners on a trail can pound out a pretty flat surface, which is enhanced by trail grooming machines; snowshoers can do an even better job.

❌ On the other hand, just one or two sets of boots a day down the trail can create an uneven surface full of boot holes (“post holes”) that is time-consuming to groom (having to fill and pack the holes manually) and leads to an unpleasant experience for cycling and trail running.

With that, for the 2022/2023 winter season, Valley Life Recreation will run a pilot program where, rather than separating use between user groups…

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…all of the NEWLY constructed trails at the Squirrel Hills Recreation Area will be OPEN to ALL USER GROUPS this winter (with one caveat).

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CAVEAT: This does NOT apply to the marked cross-country ski trails; they MUST be avoided by all non-skiers in winter. (Three short new blue flow trails will also remain closed as they are not designed for winter use and will remain ungroomed.)

In order to maintain a smooth and enjoyable trail surface within this pilot program, we need healthy numbers in trail users and trail users that help us maintain the integrity of the trail.

To accomplish this new pilot program at the Squirrel Hills, VLR will groom the trails, publish information about responsible winter trail use (“think before you sink”), share trail condition updates, and publish callouts for users to come and help pack after large snow events, in conjunction with machined trail grooming.

We are also launching a NEW email list that is strictly for receiving trail condition updates. If you want to receive email updates on trail conditions and be alerted when we need your help after significant snowfalls, please join our NEW Trail Conditions email list explicitly for this purpose.

While we wait for the new trailhead to be built next year, trail access will remain from the existing parking lot at the Squirrel Hills Recreation Area for this winter. Click here for a Google Maps location.

Temporary signage is being prepared to identify the trails available for hiking, fat biking, snowshoeing and running along with distance markers that will be placed on the trails (full permanent signage with various sponsor names will be put in place upon completion of the trail park next year).

The level of use, responsible trail stewardship of all trail users, and corresponding trail quality will provide VLR with the needed information to assess what winter trail designation (if any) will look like after the full Squirrel Hills Trail Park is completed in 2023.

Once again, all non-ski users must avoid all groomed cross-country ski trails. Groomed cross-country ski trails are for SKIERS ONLY and must be AVOIDED by all other trail user groups.

For the first time ever, walkers, runners, snowshoers and fat bikers will have winter trails to use at the Squirrel Hills Recreation Area. This is exciting and we can’t wait for your help in making this a success for everyone!

Again, join our Trail Conditions email list (and any of the other lists if you’d like) and whether on skies, foot, snowshoes or fat bike, we can’t wait see you on the trail this winter!

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