Dewey Mountain cuts new trails on new land

Joseph DeFuria of the Harrietstown Highway Department grades new ski trails at Dewey Mountain Recreation Center just outside Saranac Lake. (Enterprise photo — Glynis Hart)

SARANAC LAKE — For the first time in almost 20 years, completely new ski trails are being added to the Dewey Mountain Recreation Center.

Thirty acres, once slated for a housing development near Mulflur Road, is becoming ski and mountain biking terrain.

Adirondack Lakes & Trails Outfitters, which manages Dewey for the town of Harrietstown, is working with town Highway Department workers, BOCES students and volunteers from the Dewey Mountain Friends group to get the trails ready. On a recent weekday, Joe DeFuria of the Highway Department was running a backhoe in the woods, shaping the trails and digging drainage ditches.

“We’ll be skiing on them this winter,” said Lakes & Trails owner and Dewey manager Jason Smith. He pointed out that where the trails are going in was originally cleared to become a roadway.

“This road was going to have houses on both sides,” he said. “As far as wide, groomable trails, it’s perfect.”

Dewey Mountain Recreation Center Manager Jason Smith stands beside a machine working on the mountain to create new trails. (Enterprise photo — Glynis Hart)

Smith said the project will add about 2 kilometers of trails.

“It leaves the existing trail network and comes back in,” he said.

DeFuria said the work was going pretty smoothly as this western side of the mountain is dry and well drained. The Highway Department contributes employees’ time when they’re not required for town business, Smith explained, while his company hires needed equipment.

The land purchase also makes room for more mountain biking trails. Josh Wilson of the Barkeater Trail Alliance (BETA) said his group is building narrow, single-track mountain bike trails. Groups of volunteers from BETA groom the established bike trails and work to clear and mark the new ones.

“The terrain at Dewey Mountain is pretty challenging,” Wilson said. “There’s been a real need for more beginner to intermediate trails. With this new purchase, the terrain is quite a bit easier, more geared toward beginners.

“If you’re riding to the top of Dewey, that’s quite challenging, with several hundred feet of vertical trail. For the most part, this trail is going to be much easier. You don’t have the requirement of climbing, and the hills tend to be very short.”

After the snow falls, the bike trails become snowshoe trails.

Another group excited about the purchase is Dewey Mountain Friends. Scott Stoddard, co-chair of the group, said the Friends purchased another 13-acre plot on the eastern side of the mountain.

“We’re looking to expand and improve on everything Dewey has to offer,” Stoddard said. “The biggest thing is to make it all four seasons.”

The Dewey Mountain Friends are developing a five-year-plan, Stoddard said. An advisory board of parents and community members who are passionate about the mountain, the group raises funds for programming and land purchases. In the future, it hopes to improve lighting on the trails.

Smith said he expects the trails to be ready for the public by the end of next week.