GETTIN’ IT GROOMED: Campaign Will Fund New Equipment to Groom Cross-Country Ski Trails
just-launched $200,000 effort includes new machine for E.C. County trails
The unpredictability of winter weather can lead to uncertainty for cross-country skiing enthusiasts, but even more so can the unpredictability of current equipment used by Eau Claire County to groom ski trails.
Right now, the main gear used at Tower Ridge and other county parks is more than 30 years old, frequently breaking down, and not up to the task of keeping trails in good shape.
While they can’t control the weather, local skiers can impact how well – and often – trails are groomed, and improving the available grooming equipment can greatly increase the quality of the trails and the number of days skiing is possible. That’s the motivation behind “Get It Groomed!” – a just-launched community campaign to raise $200,000 to secure a new and improved trail grooming machine and begin a new program that advocates say will keep trail conditions in tip-top shape at Tower Ridge and other county parks.
Tower Ridge County Park, located less than 10 miles east of Eau Claire, is a top cross-country skiing spot in the region, featuring 12-plus miles of trails. In recent years, however, aging and inadequate equipment, as well as staffing and scheduling challenges, have made it hard to keep the trails properly groomed, skiers say.
This is a blow to recreational opportunities for visitors and local cross-country skiers alike – an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 of whom use trails at Tower Ridge and other county parks annually. This includes the roughly 200 children who take part in the successful Kickin’ Kids program of the Eau Claire Ski Striders.
It would bring Tower Ridge up to a level of quality that we don’t really have in this area. It would expand the number of days we can use it, it would expand the quality of the grooming that’s out there right now, and it would save many work hours for the county.
KICKIN' KIDS PROGRAM
Chris Gorzek, director of Kickin’ Kids, which is a program of the Eau Claire Ski Striders, says new equipment would help boost the local ski scene in numerous ways.
“It would bring Tower Ridge up to a level of quality that we don’t really have in this area,” he said. “It would expand the number of days we can use it, it would expand the quality of the grooming that’s out there right now, and it would save many work hours for the county.”
A new grooming machine would be larger, stronger, and more agile, grooming trails in one pass instead of the multiple passes necessary with current equipment, Gorzek said. Because of current equipment limitations, he said, some ski trails were never even groomed this year.
The “Get It Groomed!” initiative is a partnership between the Eau Claire Ski Striders, a nonprofit group behind many of the improvements at Tower Ridge over the years, and Eau Claire County. Funds raised would go toward the purchase of a new machine – specifically, a Favero Snow Rabbit 3 – that could be kept at an existing building at Tower Ridge. The Snow Rabbit would be outfitted with a tiller, which would be particularly useful during seasons like this winter, when conditions have sometimes been wet and icy. In such situations, the tiller can be used to grind up the surface of the trail and lay it back down, making it safer and more enjoyable for skiers. Once purchased, the machine would be maintained and owned by the county.
In addition to raising funds for new equipment, the initiative also includes creating a new approach to grooming county ski trails. In the past, grooming equipment has been operated exclusively by county employees, which has meant grooming was limited by budget and staff constraints. Now, the county and the Ski Striders are exploring a partnership where trained volunteers and part-time employees – often people most passionate about the sport – would be able to help with grooming when conditions are best for it, whether that’s in evenings, early mornings, weekends, or holidays. Skiers say this will maximize the value of the new equipment and ensure trails are in better condition more often.
The campaign will including public funds from the county as well as donations from individuals, businesses, and groups. Local and regional grants will also be sought. Organizers say the goal is to raise the needed funds during the first three quarters of 2023 so the equipment can be in full use for the 2023-24 skiing season.
To learn more about the Get It Groomed! Project and donate, visit