Snowmobilers, start your engines

December 27, 2006 11:00 pm
WINTER WONDERLAND: Snowmobile clubs in Baker County are getting over 1,000 miles of marked trails ready for snowmobilers. (Photo by Eldon Doser).
WINTER WONDERLAND: Snowmobile clubs in Baker County are getting over 1,000 miles of marked trails ready for snowmobilers. (Photo by Eldon Doser).

By JAYSON JACOBY

A series of flake-filled storms during the past week has put the spurs to Baker County's previously sluggish snowmobiling season.

"It's snowing like crazy right now," Glen Ferguson, president of the Sumpter Valley Blue Mountain Snowmobile Club, said Wednesday morning.

He expects the club's trail-grooming machine will work at a similarly frenetic pace the next couple days.

"Tomorrow," Ferguson said Wednesday, "we're going to get serious."

Serious about grooming the 342 miles of trails that surround , to be specific.

Ferguson said the club groomed about half the local trails in mid-December.

But until Dec. 23 snow was scarce, and the hordes of riders he expected during the long Christmas weekend stayed away.

Ferguson figures the crowds will arrive for the final weekend of 2006.

Snow is also plentiful in .

The past week's parade of blizzards padded the snowpack at Fish Lake, north of Halfway, to an estimated six to seven feet, said Whitey Bloom, president of the Panhandle Snowmobilers Club.

"There's plenty of fresh snow, and conditions are great," Bloom said.

What's not so great is the condition of his club's grooming machine.

The groomer broke Wednesday near Fish Lake, and replacement parts probably won't arrive until next week, Bloom said.

Nonetheless, he doesn't think the shortage of groomed trails will discourage riders — many snowmobilers prefer pristine, ungroomed powder, anyway.

Regardless of where riders plan to travel this weekend, they should bring either sunglasses or clip a tinted visor on their helmet.

The last in the string of storms has departed Oregon, and according to the National Weather Service, clear skies will predominate through New Year's Day.

Snowmobile trail maps for Baker County are available at the Baker County Visitor Center, 490 Campbell St. in Baker City (near the Sunridge Inn).

The Visitor Center is open Monday through Friday from 8 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.