Trail grooming on public lands, CNSC hosting race this weekend at HH

We had a brief discussion about groomed ski trails on the CNSC list serve today. I am NOT a supporter of groomed trails on public lands. Here is my (modified) response to that discussion, briefly explaining why. (1st indent following).  Scroll down for info on ski race.

“I don’t think ski-season grooming of trails with motorized equipment is appropriate in a public forest like Hammond Hill, for a variety of reasons.  It is important to remember these are not “ski trails” but multi-use non-motorized recreational trails for all year round use in a beautiful natural area. Grooming a multi-use trail perpetuates a feeling of exclusionary “skiers only” access on a non-motorized multi-use trail system.

In a multi-use area like HH, skiers expecting nicely groomed trails could be upset by snowshoes, kids, dogs and beginner adult skiers. It also, often enough, requires widening the trails for grooming equipment access, which degrades the summertime single-track experience for cycling, hiking, running and so forth. Widening the trails also opens things up for potential unauthorized motorized access in the summer months. For these reasons alone, grooming is best kept on private lands, where the land owners can collect a fee to cover costs of fuel and maintenance and can legally limit access to the private groomed trails.

Other choices less traveled: There are literally hundreds of miles of seldom used NYS DEC and Federally sanctioned recreational trails in the Finger Lakes area covering a land area of 100,000 plus acres (Hammond Hill is only about 3500 acres) If folks want less traveled trails, they should explore other forests. There are many maps available for other forests on the internet. (Examples, , ) Go ski: go have fun. If you need groomed trails, go to a private resort and pay the deserved fee for that service.” -Mike L

Also … I need to give folks who are on this bikeski list but not on the other outdoor lists a heads up! The Cayuga Nordic Ski Club is hosting a race this weekend at Hammond Hill (Jan 12th Sat morning). This event happens once a year only if snow conditions permit. The racers have a one time special permit to groom tracks for this event. If you are not racing, please avoid the groomed tracks the night before and the morning of the race :-) Here is a map of the race course Read the full description below.

Oh, and here is part of the response on that same grooming thread from Jack Rueckheim, CNSC co-president and race coordinator. (I am passing on mostly the part of the letter relevant to grooming and the upcoming race).

“OK, I guess I’ll chime in here.  The whole discussion of grooming the trails on a regular basis is probably a moot point, since it would have to be done under a DEC permit.  CNSC obtains a permit each year to groom specific trails for its race.  The permit is good for only 1-2 days before the race and race day.  They are not likely to grant a permit for season-long grooming–because they [at Hammond Hill] are multi-use trails.

Sometimes its hard to accept the condition in which other types of users leave the trails, but we do have to tolerate the other users (with the exception of motorized vehicles).  But some of these other users, for example, the equestrians, put big money and work into trail work at HH so its hard to complain about horsehoof postholes.  That being said, it would be considerate to knock the exhaust off the trail.

All that being said, the CNSC WILL be using a snowmobile later this week to groom certain trails for Saturday’s race if all goes according to plan. This is through a DEC permit.  It’ll probably be done late Friday with the race going off on Saturday morning, so the presence of the snowmobile and the tracks will probably be short-lived.” -Jack R.

Cayuga Classic Ski Race Scheduled for Saturday, January 12, 2013 Here is part of the article from the CNSC website. Full article

On January 12, 2013, the Cayuga Nordic Ski Club will hold its annual 5 and 10k ski races at Hammond Hill State Forest. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has approved this race and course grooming under a Temporary Revocable Permit. The trails will not be officially closed, but non-racers are asked to preserve the set tracks, yield the trail to racers as they pass, and to follow instructions of course marshals. It would really be best for all if the public would use alternate trails at least until all racers have started and then to ski in the same direction as the racers.

Racing will begin at 10:30 AM and all racers are expected to have started by 11 AM and to be off the course by 12:30 PM. The general public is invited to participate in either the 10k Empire State Games Qualifier (open to all), the 5k citizens’ race, the 5k scholastic race, or the 1k kids’ race. Details and on-line registration are at  Day-of registration is from 8:30 to 10:00AM on January 12 at the ski hut. The entry fee for the 10k race will be $25 ($5 refunded if you are a NYSSRA member).  Entry fee for the 5k race will be $20, to cover costs and insurance.

Thanks for your cooperation on the trails and we hope to see you  there on January 12th

Club members (and others!) can volunteer to help or you will be press-ganged.  Your choice.  We need some marshals, car parkers, registration table staffers, and start/finish timers.  Contact Ernie Bayles ( or Jack Rueckheim ( for more information.

Happy New Year,
-Mike :-)

Michael Ludgate

10 thoughts on “Trail grooming on public lands, CNSC hosting race this weekend at HH

  1. From a bikeski subscriber ….

    Here is my two cents: groomed trails greatly increase the enjoyment and safety of skiing on trails. I disagree that opening some trails like the woodland roads automatically needs to lead to widening of all trails, tree removal etc.

    The Fahnestock state park in Putnam county has staff that grooms trails, rents equipment, and has changing and warming facilities, snacks and a mini store. It is a treasured resource for cross-country skiing when there is enough snow and for all sorts if other wilderness activities at other times.

    Bojan Petek

  2. Keep in mind the area Bojan mentions a State Park: Parks are typically much more highly developed than natural areas like Hammond Hill which is a State Forest. Fahnestock is very close to NYC and is under tremendous development pressure. We are lucky here to have enough free space to not have to put up with the exhaust and noise of grooming machines while cross country skiing. See

  3. from another subscriber:

    I agree 100% with what Mike said.

    I will only add that personally I hate groomed trails and will not use
    them. When I xc ski it is to be in nature, close, personal, ungroomed,
    unmotorized. While I like to bushwhack, I choose not to do so in high
    use areas like Hammond Hill, because sticking to established trails
    impacts nature less. Let’s not turn established trails into wide


  4. Hi Mike,
    I feel the same way and I appreciate all your effort to keep and enjoy HH as it is…
    Best regards,

  5. Yup, Jack is right; DEC generally won’t support season long grooming in this type of natural area, not without a ton of community support – and it’s just not there. Keep in mind: The ski season is very short here, these trails are used for a large variety of other uses all year around.

    Widening of the trails keeps coming up on CNSC list-serve … the argument is that the grooming equipment will not widen the trails.

    The route chosen by CNSC for the upcoming event is on multi-use trails that have had quite a bit of motorized activity in the last few years. Some of this was legitimate; trail maintenance for example (putting down gravel with tractors paid for partly by the equestrian club by the way); some of it was not legitimate – kids in ORV’s (off road vehicles: atvs, jeeps etc). The nicer, skinnier more single-track like multi-use trails like the red loop and parts of the blue “lollipop” loop are more in line with the width they are supposed to be. Yes a snowmobile can sneak through, (I saw where one got stuck on the red loop recently though) but try a bigger wider snowmobile with enough power and traction to pull a groomer and then a trailer groomer machine itself and suddenly you need wide trails.

    See: race map

    See modern trail groomer.

  6. I completely agree with Michael Ludgate. It would be a shame to widen these beautiful trails (which are already laid out to be quite skier friendly) and have mechanized equipment regularly roaming the woods for grooming. One of the best aspects of skiing and doing other activities at HH is the natural setting, which could easily be lost. Peter Miller

    On widening the trails:

    Saying that the possibility of having to widen the trails at HH is an “absurd concern” seems pretty absurd to me. Any groomed trails I have used in the NE are significantly wider than the single track trails at HH and not all of the trails at HH are used in the once-a-year ski race. I would be surprised if the primary trail system could be regularly groomed without at least some trail enhancement being required, including not only widening some parts of the trails but also “smoothing out” parts the trails. I have seen on several occasions where snowmobiles have “accidentally” used the single track trails at HH, including the incident this season, and the sight (ruts, gouges and thrown up dirt) is not one which strengthens the argument for grooming the trails. Peter Miller

  7. From a subscriber (Facebook)

    Thanks for the chance to weigh in without engaging in the list-serv clog-up! Groomed trails are great for going fast, especially on skate skis. The nearest commercial area is the Greek Peak Nordic Center, and I’ve enjoyed it some, though not lately. One can also sometimes skate at Connecticut Hill and the South Hill Rec Way thanks to, respectively, snowmobiles and lots and lots of other people simply being out. But come on, grooming a state forest? The DEC has enough to do without being asked to run a ski park. It turned over the alpine area Belleayre to ORDA this year. It’s great the DEC is flexible enough to permit one-time events like the ski club race (good luck with the weather!), but HH is not a dedicated ski park. If skiers really see the need to smash down refrozen slush, go out there and break it up with your skis, your boots or snowshoes. Or ski on the snowmobile trails after the sleds have been out (maybe wear hunter orange for safety). If skiers really need mechanically groomed trails, they should pool their money, buy some land and grooming machines, and sell tickets. Seriously: a not-for-profit cooperative ski center. Write a grant proposal! A for-profit won’t work because we live in a place that’s marginal for snow and is only going to get warmer. But a co-op could be viable. -David H

  8. SKI RACE – As of today, Thursday the 10th, at 3 p.m., the ski race is a go. Check the [CNSC] website for details on the times and such, everyone should come. The big if is just how much rain we get tomorrow, so the final call will be made tomorrow evening. I will update the website and post here one way or the other.

  9. RACE – Sat Jan 12 2013

    “Its on! Come on out and race tomorrow morning. It might be a little like
    water skiing but the course is well covered (as of 2:30 this afternoon).
    The boiler pate we’ve been skiing on recently is softening up. Should be a
    reasonably good course. See you there!

    Details at

    Jack and Ernie”

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