For the last eight years, local high school cross country ski teams have been using the ski trails at Meissner Sno-Park on a regular basis, usually one to two times a week. The high school ski program has been wildly successful because of the strong volunteer commitment of coaches and parents and support from local ski shops.
For most of the participants in the program it is an introduction to the sport of cross-country skiing. Participants leave the program with strong ski skills, a love of the sport, greater fitness and an introduction to competitive skiing. In an age of ever increasing child and adult obesity in the United States, the high school program develops skills and experience in children that will most likely lead them to ski throughout their adult life.
Most Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from December through February from 3:30 to 5:30 pm you will find two to four local high school ski teams enjoying the groomed trails at Meissner. Sometimes this group will number more than 100 skiers. To me nothing is more gratifying than seeing children enjoying skiing and the benefits of exercise. Frankly, our local community benefits more from children enjoying the benefits of participating in a lifetime sport than the loss or change of experience.
Visitors to the groomed ski trails at Meissner Sno-Park mimic the trends of other cross country skiers in North America. Fewer than 10% of the estimated annual 13 million cross country ski outings occur at commercial Nordic ski resorts. However, skiers who pay to ski groomed trails represent the core of the market (Gear Trends, Winter 2003, Roger Lohr; based on a participation study by the National Sporting Goods Association). This is due to the number of groomed trails on city, county, state park and National Forest land.
A quick survey of users at the Meissner area will find a large number of families with children and beginning skiers. The flat and rolling terrain adjacent to the trailhead, the short distance from town and affordability (sno-park permit required; volunteer donations for grooming) all make it very attractive for these users.
There are several other groups that are regular users who benefit from the groomed trails. COCC Community Learning and Bend Metro Park and Recreation District both have adult ski instruction classes that use the area. In addition, Bend Park and Recreation's Bend Kids Ski League and athletes from the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation are frequent users.
The popularity of the ski trails at Meissner and the distribution of users are similar to popular hiking trails at national parks or national forests in the summer. Once beyond the initial one- to two-mile radius of the trailhead user numbers drop considerably. The more effort you put in the less number of people you see.
The expansion plans for the Meissner Sno-Park have received broad community support. Letters of support have been received from the Bend City Council, Deschutes County Commissioners, Bend Metro Park and Recreation District, Bend Visitor and Convention Bureau, Sunnyside Sports and Oregon High School Nordic. The Central Oregon community will benefit from active children and adults who have unrestricted access to healthy, recreational opportunities at Meissner Sno-Park.
See you on the trails,
Tim Gibbons, Redmond High School Ski Coach
(Editor's Note: Dale Neubauer was quoted in the story acknowledging that the groomed trails at Meissner benefit high school ski teams and others. "I can appreciate both sides; I have two sons who are on the high school cross-country team," he said. "They go up to Meissner from time to time, and do benefit from those groomed trails.")<