With a snowflake appearing on the Traverse City weather forecast this week, and for the first time this season, we figured we’d better check in with the snow bike people to see how the trail building and grooming is going at Traverse City’s Vasa Trail singletrack. Glen Ruczynski, who is taking the lead on the snow bike trail project for the Northern Michigan Mountain Biking Association, brings us up to date.
Can you start with a quick update on the trail construction—will the snow bike trail be ready by winter.
Sure. Constructionwise, we are over 80 percent complete. Most of the trail is existing Vasa singletrack—some of which we had to widen a little bit to get the groomer through—and we are adding a little more than two miles of new trail that needed to be built.
What will be to total length of snow bike trail for this winter?
About 8.5, 9 miles. There will be some loop options. (See downloadable pdf below.)
Describe the personality of the trail.
It will be a different experience from riding the Vasa Pathway, which is what snow bikers had to ride last year. It will be twistier, less elevation change, technically a little tougher to ride—more like mountain biking.
Tell us why grooming is needed for snow bikes.
If you have thick snow, deep snow, heavy snow, you just won’t get anywhere on a snow bike. You will just sink in. We need to pack down a firm base, like downhill skiing or cross-country skiing. We are looking to compact the base to where the bike will stay on top and float properly.
What’s the most important thing for snow bikers to know about helping keep the trail in good condition?
If the weather warms up, that can be a problem. We ask people to ride at 30 degrees and colder. Also we ask them to watch the weather forecast. If temperatures are predicted to warm up six degrees during the next two hours and rise above 30, then don’t go out. Also, keep the tire pressure very low, like 1.5 to 3 psi. The tires look really odd, like they are flat and wrinkle, but tire pressures need to be low to make it fun. And it will keep the trail in better shape.
Who will be doing the grooming?
We will be using a separate crew from the Vasa ski trail grooming team, and we will have our own equipment. We have one snowmobile and are raising money for another. Short’s Brewing was a big help, having a fundraiser that raised $7,000 and we are hoping to get a matching grant from Rotary for the other $7,000. We plan to groom three times a week, depending on the weather. We are also raising funds by selling trail badges. You can get them on the TART Trails website.
What plans are ahead beyond this first trail?
We realize the 8.5 miles is a good start, but we could definitely use more. One thing, we absolutely want to figure a way to connect to Bartlett Road Vasa parking lot.
Have you heard of other snow bike trail grooming projects in Northern Michigan?
I’ve heard Manistee has something going. I’ve heard of limited grooming possible at Glacier Hills, near Bellaire. Hansen Hills, near Grayling, has a snow bike trail.
Donate to the trail grooming cause by buying a trail badge (cross-country ski trail badges too) at traversetrails.org/grooming-badge/.
Download pdf of trail map: Download trail pdf here.