Groomed and ready for skiers

Town Councilman John Quinn sits atop the town’s trail groomer after tending to the trails Thursday afternoon. Quinn is one of five volunteers who groom the trails several times a week and said he enjoys taking the time to provide Tupper Lakers with the only free-to-us, groomed trails in the Tri-Lakes. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

TUPPER LAKE — The cross-country trails at the government-owned golf course are the only free-to-use, dog friendly, groomed cross-country trails in the Tri-Lakes area, and on Feb. 8, town Councilman John Quinn was out preparing those trails after the town received several inches of snow.

Quinn brings the cross-country trail groomer to a stop along the Cranberry Pond Loop across the pond from the Big Tupper Ski Mountain and looks over at the white trails streaking down the mountain’s northern face.

He does this every time he grooms, he says, usually he takes a minute or two, enjoying his coffee, listening to classic rock and studying the mountain he learned to alpine ski on.

“I grew up there, my kids grew up there,” Quinn said.

When the ski area closed in 1999, and again in 2014, after five years of volunteer operation, Quinn said many Tupper Lakers who would be learning to downhill ski, took up cross-country. Though the school no longer has a team, the elementary school has recently been hosting a class twice a week, training students alongside Ken Kalil, an instructor from Mount Van Hovenberg in Lake Placid.

Quinn said that cross-country is a very inclusive sport, being relatively inexpensive, low-impact and easy to learn for any age.

“You can go at your own pace; it’s very peaceful,” Quinn said. “Anyone that can shuffle their feet can cross-country ski.”

Quinn is one of the five groomers who take care of over five miles of trails at the golf course, heading out on a four-wheeler modified to run on tank treads at least once or twice a week.

They use three different grooming machines they use: a trail plane, which brute forces snow drifts flat after heavy downfall, a roller, which is a culvert bent in a circle and used to compact snow, pushing the air out of it before the groomer, a multi-faceted contraption is run over the trails. The groomer flattens, it builds ridges and leaves two deep, parallel lines for skis to run in.

All these machines were funded by a combination of taxpayer dollars and donations left by skiers in a trail head box. A third of the cross-country funding comes from donations.

The public-use ski area also features a sledding hill at the far end of the first green, which groomers started carving a path for just recently, to the delight of the kids who come looking for the fastest, smoothest ride.

Heading deeper into the trails, Quinn points out that they wind their way onto land owned by the Adirondack Club and Resort, a multi-level development bringing luxury housing to the mountain and funding the re-opening of the Big Tupper Ski Area.

The ACR allows the town to operate trails on its property and the two organizations are working out an agreement for the town to give the developers a certificate of insurance to cover any injuries on the course.

Quinn said the cross-country trails will lead straight to the ski area’s lodge and can be accessed from the “Great Camp” lots.

Quinn retired in 2009 and started grooming the next year. He said he always thought he would be riding snowmobiles in retirement but enjoys grooming and riding the town’s four-wheeler for free. He is an avid cross-country skier, often bushwhacking in the back country along the Bog River or in the High Peaks.

He has worked with the town and the Development Authority of the North Country to work out a master plan for the cross-country trails, obtaining funding for a topographical mapping study and planning for the addition of several new trails and off-shoots.

In the past few years volunteers have cut new trails along the north end of the Golf Course Loop and the Adirondack Park Agency has flagged an area to shift a trail on the southern end from the windy green into the woods.

The land the trails sit on was once owned by the Oval Wood Dish Company. It was donated to the Hull family, whose name is borne on several trails, and transferred to the town in the 1930s.

Jim Frenette, now 89 years old, developed the trails when Quinn was a kid, following OWD logging roads and forging his own path.

Quinn has plans to continue Frenette’s development, adding and shifting trails, winterizing the clubhouse and possibly lighting parts of the trails for night skiing in the future.