End of season is close!
March 25th, 2021
This blogger took a hiatus from sending out news. Just got to be waaay too much time in front of the computer.
Above photo is what we get in Erling Stordahl with a 6' base. This was taken last Saturday and while it was a tad wet, the skiing was great! Ski For Light was out and snow stayed nice.
Well, here we go – plenty of updates since we are nearing the end of a record setting season and I would like to get some closing information out to all of you.
Ok, first up is closing schedule for I-90 corridor. Grooming in the corridor has various end dates. The Sno-Park grooming contracts conclude on March 31st
· Lake Easton State Park – already done for the season.
· Salmon La Sac had last grooming session on Monday, March 22nd
· Blewett Pass, Swauk Campground and Pipe Creek tend to lose snow quick once it warms up. These areas can be super nice in the spring though – just take your touring skis.
· Up on the pass – The P2C and sled dog trails are scheduled for last day of grooming on Monday March 29th. I begged for a bonus run on Wednesday, but no luck.
· Hyak Sled Hill – typically this is decommissioned, but I do not know when. The parking lot will stay open.
· Crystal Springs will remain open through Friday April 9th. Then the gate closes and is locked. Erling Stordahl last grooming on Wednesday March 31st.
· Kongsbergers Ski club ran a fundraising campaign utilizing the Washington State Parks Foundation in early April, where $18,522 was donated to the Sno-Park program dedicating those funds for keeping midweek grooming at Cabin Creek through the end of this month. All of us are thankful for that effort.
· Cabin Creek - The club is now working on keeping things going for another 2 weeks, which requires approval from the USFS. Last season COVID hit and they shut down but the year before KSC funded grooming for 2 weeks in April and have a MOU with the USFS – of which the Sno-Park program is NOT involved with. Sani-cans will remain in place for the duration as that is a part of the approval. There will be no more snow removal.
2021 / 2022 season fee increase information:
The Sno-Park program reached out to the I-90 clubs and users over a year ago (way before COVID) to see what we all thought, and most users agreed it was time for an increase. Keeping up with use and resulting needs was getting harder and to complicate matters, grant funding from the RCO is getting significantly more competitive and is not a good way to run a program when those funds are / were relied on and yet grants need to be resubmitted every 2 years with no guarantee of winning. The Winter Recreation Advisory Committee subcommittee did a lot of research to determine how to approach this potential fee increase and started out with “where do we need to be” and “how do we get there”?
Since I attend way too many meetings, I’ve learned that nordic skiing has expensive infrastructure – i.e. equipment and operators. The non-motorized program owns a lot of equipment which need rotating out and replacement. Cabin Creek and Erling Stordahl contract with a private contractor, so the program does not provide equipment. Let’s just leave it at it gets complicated as to who does what and where and is funded by whom.
So, back to the increases. The committee decided that those areas using the most resources will see the highest fee increase – the special grooming sticker areas. That’s us! Next season to ski out of Hyak, Crystal Springs, Cabin Creek and Lake Easton State Park will cost $120 per season. To put this in perspective, this is per vehicle and the last fee increase was in 2009!
Many questions come in about why the permits are not transferable between vehicles within a family? Well, what the Program discovered was immense amount of sharing happened between friends and the revenue was low for the demand. This blog has commented on expense of grooming and snow removal for a long time. No money in = no money out = No services. Simple. Remember – NOT TAX DOLLAR FUNDED.
Now you ask, what about all the funds from the HUMONGOUS crowds we had this season? Well, the extra income is most certainly not quite what anyone expected, and the final account balance isn’t available until July 1st when the fiscal year ends. There is no borrowing against funds you think will be there. There should be a sizable budget for next season.
The summer funding meeting will be a lengthy one with many big one-time project requests coming in. Typically, these are for huts, trail repairs, bridges, gates, plenty of equipment replacements and storage options, more sani-can requests, staffing (think Snoqualmie Pass USFS Visitor Center, REI Outdoor Information Center and agency Rangers) and even signs. Grooming increases are further down the list as the Program and Advisory Committee try to keep the program on an even keel instead of increasing services only then find themselves having to cut back the following season due to lack of permit sales. Repeat. Good years put more money into equipment reserve, low permit sales less money into equipment repairs. That way expected services remain fairly consistent.
Once again, our revenue is dependent on the sale of these non-motorized permits. Program is run under the State Parks umbrella but is a user fee-based program. The Winter Recreation Advisory Committee approves the budget.
Some of us were hoping to use this funding cycle to put in a funding request to hire out consultants to prepare the environmental documents for trail work in Erling Stordahl and Cabin Creek so we can determine what we can (or can’t) do, but USFS still does not have the staff to even review the documents for approval even if the studies were paid for by winter recreation funding. This has been an issue forever. It’s completely absurd. The funding fix needs to come from Congress.
Nothing is free.