OREGON OUTDOORS VIDEO: Trail grooming, pt. 1

Watch part 2 here.

Watch part 3 here.

LAKE OF THE WOODS — Southern Oregon snowmobilers have a widely documented need for speed when they power down the trail systems around Lake of the Woods.

But before they can go fast, someone’s got to go slow. Volunteers who drive the tortoise-like trail-grooming machines, including the Medford-based Sno-Cat machines, are the ones who carve out the trails and pack down the snow after storms to make for ideal conditions for snowmobiling and even for cross-country skiers piggybacking on dual-use trails.

The machines lumber at a slow pace, with its tracks and blades working the snow. In older machines, the vibrations can be tough on the driver’s kidneys, but newer models are smoother and quieter and offer great a unique backwoods experience not seen when zipping down trails.

“You’re running around at 3 to 5 miles per hours, so it’s a unique way to see the backcountry at a different pace,” says George Gregory, general manager of nearby Lake of the Woods Resort.

Gregory is a member of the Klamath Basin Snowdrifters, a snowmobile club affiliated with the Oregon State Snowmobile Association. Using grooming machines bought with gas-tax money funneled through the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department, the snowdrifters take turns packing, leveling and widening more than 300 miles of trails around Lake of the Woods, encompassing trails in both the Rogue River-Siskiyou and Freemont-Winema national forests.

The trails go to Pelican Butte, Brown Mountain and even several lava flows in the region. Other trails in the Hyatt Lake area are groomed for both snowmobiles and cross-country skiers.

“There’s about 12 of us now who groom trails on the forest,” Gregory says. “We don’t get paid but we light to do it because it a great fun way to get out and see the forest and help out the community.”

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or Follow him on Twitter at @MTwriterFreeman.

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