RICE LAKE — Though it’s a silent sport, cross-country skiing needs the whirring of whining of engines to keep skiers in stride.
That sound became something other than a smooth sound last month when the grooming snowmobile used by the Barron Area Nordic Trail Association (BANTA) broke down.
That mechanical issue put a major kink into the grooming schedule of nearly four miles of trails on the south side of the city of Barron.
“To fix the gear box would be more than the snowmobile is worth,” BANTA president Tyler Gruetzmacher said after obtaining repair cost estimates for the old machine.
So the BANTA board decided to go after a used snowmobile made especially for grooming.
Board members recently purchased a 2016 Arctic Cat Bearcat Groomers Special. It cost about $10,000.
To make the purchase more affordable, that cost can be spread out over perhaps 20 years, Gruetzmacher said.
“In the long term the new groomer will be a money savior because it’s so much more efficient,” Gruetzmacher said.
Nevertheless, BANTA is taking out a loan and looking for donations.
The Bearcat Groomers Special is just that, a special three-speed snowmobile made for grooming ski trails.
It can go as slow as 4 mph — a speed good for grooming duty—and has a reverse gear, Gruetzmacher said.
BANTA grooms nearly 2 miles of 12-foot wide lighted cross-country ski trails in what is known as Rockman’s Woods, whihc is located south of Barron High School.
There is also more than 1 mile of ski trails in an open field.
The cross-country trails are groomed for ski skating and also tracked for traditional striding.
In addition, BANTA maintains more than a kilometer of trail dedicated to snowshoeing.
Grooming the entire trail system can take up to eight hours. BANTA members take turns doing the grooming.
BANTA, with about 30 members, has been in existence since 2006. Lights along trails to accommodate night skiing were added in 2010.
Gruetzmacher said that night can be a pretty time to go skiing.
“The lights are only 4 feet off the ground, so you can ski and still see the stars.”
The snowmobile that broke down was 11 years old after being purchased with a generous donation.
Now, the BANTA board is looking for donations again to help pay for the new sled.
Donations can be made directly to BANTA at Barron Area Nordic Trails, 307 E. Franklin Ave., Barron, WI 54812.
Also, a donation box is at the trail head for skiers using the trail. BANTA single and family memberships also are available and help defray costs.
Gruetzmacher said BANTA is looking at expanding its trail opportunities so the area can be used by skiers with dogs and fat-tire bikers.
Besides Gruetzmacher, other BANTA board members are Scott Quiser, Gary Mikolan, Bob Peterson and Greg Mikunda.
Greschner writes about the outdoors and sports for the Rice Lake Chronotype.