As recently as five years ago, during the beginning of, oh, say Obama's presidency, nordic skiing at Virginia Meissner Sno-Park—home to Bend's community ski trails—was hit or miss.
Let's be honest: Mostly, it was the grooming that was a miss. To tame the 40-plus kilometers of ski trails, the local ski club (formerly known as Tumalo Langlauf Club) relied on a clunky decades-old contraption that looked (and performed) like a vehicle from a '80s National Lampoon movie. Even as the rest of the club and its amenities improved over the past few year, the groomer still lagged and increasingly failed. But this season, with new board members, increased membership and funding and—most importantly, a new grooming machine—Meissner Nordic, as the nonprofit is now called, has become one of the area's most treasured assets.
And with Meissner's Forest Service permit allowing grooming to start on Dec. 1, this season looks to be the area's best yet.
But back to the groomer: The sleek, fire-engine red, nearly new PistenBully 100 is a snow-borne version of a Ferrari. Larry Katz, Meissner Nordic's treasurer and one of six current board members, said the $189,000 PistenBully was a demo machine and has seen fewer than 92 hours of use (approximately 400 miles).
"It's barely broken in," Katz offered, before adding that it came with a full warranty.
Katz is one of the faces of positive change for Meissner Nordic. When he took over as treasurer, "the books were in shambles," he said. There were no clear records of fuel usage, payroll or membership contributions. Today, however, and thanks to Katz and a number of other enthusiastic board members and supporters, Meissner Nordic is run less like a club and more like what it really is: a small business. A functioning and up-to-date website (meissnernordic.org) and active Facebook page, with near daily conditions updates, certainly has helped membership jump from roughly 480 members three years ago to nearly 600 today.
It was Katz, starting last March, who was largely in charge of the capital campaign to pay for the new grooming machine. His efforts and those of the club were rewarded last week when Katz marched down to the bank and, using donations and grants (the biggest of which came from the Oregon Community Foundation, Clabough Foundation and Subaru of Bend) and by selling off the old equipment, plopped down $115,000 for the highly regarded PistenBully. The club took out a $75,000 loan to pay for the balance.
"I'm very happy to run a state-of-the-art machine that will put out a great skiing surface," said Lev Stryker, one of two groomers employed by the nonprofit. "Meissner is set to rock all winter long."
Aside from the 1,200 skiers who frequent Meissner on the weekends, all of the area high schools train at the popular spot—an area barely 15 minutes from downtown Bend. Also, this year, Meissner will host one of Oregon's two state championship races.
Perhaps less exciting, but still big news: The Meissner parking lot is now nearly twice as big! (No more musical chairs on Saturday morning.) If overflow parking is needed, skiers can travel a couple of miles farther up Century Drive and park at Swampy Lakes Sno-Park. From there they can ski into the Meissner complex via a one kilometer groomed trail. Katz also reports that the ski huts are now stocked with freshly chopped firewood and—drum roll—the club is in talks with the forest service about grooming new trails.
Virginia Meissner Sno-Park operated by Meissner Nordic
approximately 13 miles southwest of Bend on Century Dr.
40 kilometers of skate and classic trails groomed on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, including Thanksgiving and Christmas break.
Become a member and contribute at meissnernordic.org.
Correction: The original article incorrectly stated how much Meissner Nordic's virtually new grooming machine had been used prior to purchase. The error has since been corrected.