News & Events

January 24, 2021

Maasto Hiihto Cross Country Ski Trails improves grooming capabilities

Portage Health Foundation assists with $3,000 grant

The following press release was written and sent out by the Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club

To help keep the reputation of the Copper Country as a world class destination for cross country skiing, the Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club has acquired a new groomer through a funding partnership with the City of Hancock’s Recreation Millage Fund, Portage Health Foundation’s Small Grant Program and Community Foundation of the Upper Peninsula Sustainable Forest and Wildlife Fund.

Groomer for KNSCWhile so far this winter snowfall in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula has been about half of normal, long and snowy winters can take a heavy toll on the machines making upgrades like this vital. Planning for the replacement of the all-terrain utility vehicle used for trail grooming and off-season maintenance on the Maasto Hiihto ski trails in Hancock began late last winter as the previous machine was beginning to show its age.

“Reliability and operator safety are key considerations as most grooming is done in the pre-dawn hours, often in some pretty heavy weather and remote areas without cell service,” said John Diebel, KNSC treasurer.

Financing of the machine was not easy but made possible by a number of community players with an interest in maintaining quality ski trails for outdoor recreation and community health during long and snowy Keweenaw winters. The City of Hancock through its Recreation Millage Fund provided $8,750, Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club (KNSC) $8,709, the Portage Health Foundation $3,000 and the UP Sustainable Forest and Wildlife Fund $1,500. The balance of $35,000 for the machine and track pods came from the sale of the old machine jointly owned by the City and KNSC.

Diebel, who also serves on the Hancock Recreation Commission, commented that “through this cooperative effort the City acquired a $35,000 asset for $8,750 which is a very effective way to leverage the Recreation Millage Fund.”

Ski, snowshoe and snow bike trails have played an even more important part in community health than usual this winter as various restrictions brought on by the pandemic have greatly increased the demand for outside activities that can be performed safely. Sales of annual passes to local ski trails are surging reports Diebel.

One of the unexpected challenges of replacing the machine was the high demand for UTVs and ATVs created by the pandemic. Diebel noted that KNSC spent much of the summer just trying to track down a new machine given the high demand in the midst of pandemic production slow downs. Once a new Can Am Defender was located by Houghton Power Sports in the fall the old machine was put up for sale on Craigslist and sold within hours according to Diebel. The new machine was delivered in mid-September, wired for equipment control, had the track pods installed and went into service in early December on the Hancock trails.

Now that snow is falling again with regularity local skiers can appreciate the investment and commitment to trail availability made by KNSC, the City of Hancock, Portage Health Foundation and the UP Sustainable Forest and Wildlife Fund.