BEND, Ore. — Over the years, Larry Katz has learned how to manage low snow conditions.
“Give me a foot of snow between now and Saturday, and we’ll make it last through Christmas,” Katz, the operations manager at Meissner Sno-park, said recently.
Luckily, lack of snow has not been much of a problem this late fall at the popular nordic skiing area west of Bend. Skiing started in mid-November and while the snow base got thin over Thanksgiving weekend, more snow has made for prime conditions at Meissner.
“People really want to get out and ski and we’ve had some early snow,” Katz said. “With the equipment we have, snowmobile and pull-behind roller, we’re able to take care of the trails and ski on them.”
Several more inches of snow fell Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at Meissner. “That will really set us up pretty nicely for a while,” Katz said.
Once there is enough snow, snowcat grooming will begin and will run seven days a week at Meissner, which grooms for both skate skiing and classic skiing.
This season the skiing started much earlier than last winter at Meissner, when the trails were not ready until nearly mid-December. Katz said about 20 percent of the nearly 30 miles of terrain was skiable as of Nov. 30, mostly the wider road areas.
“The narrower trails are not ready yet,” Katz said. “We need about a foot more of snow to open up our trails that aren’t roads.”
Mt. Bachelor ski area opened for both downhill and nordic on Nov. 30, giving Central Oregon cross-country skiers more options.
Still, Meissner remains extremely popular because skiers can enjoy the trails at no charge. Donations are encouraged for the nonprofit Meissner Nordic (meissnernordic.org), which uses funds raised to pay for grooming and maintenance of the area.
Katz said that the nonprofit is on “solid financial footing” due to generous donations from private citizens as well as some 30 corporate sponsors.
“People have been very generous with their money, and local businesses have jumped on the bandwagon,” Katz said. “It’s really encouraging that people are willing to support the community-based skiing idea.”
A weather station has been installed so skiers can get weather updates from the Meissner parking lot at meissnernordic.org. Meissner Nordic also plans to install a camera so skiers can view conditions via a webcam.
Meissner Sno-park is scheduled to host several high school nordic ski league races this winter and frequently hosts youth skiers from the Bend Endurance Academy and the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation.
“People are pleased with the progress we’ve made over the last dozen years, and it’s become THE place to go ski,” Katz said.