New grooming equipment acquired over the past year by the non-profit Priest Lake Nordic Club will allow volunteers to provide improved and expanded trail grooming on the west side of Priest Lake this winter. Purchasing the grooming equipment was made possible thanks to donations from several organizations, individuals, and the US Forest Service’s Resource Advisory Committee. Club president Tom Weitz says that the new equipment will allow the club to groom trails on a more regular basis and under various snow conditions this year. Since improved grooming began last season, Weitz says the club has already seen about a three-fold increase is skier usage of the west side trails.

The Priest Lake Nordic Trails are part of Idaho Parks and Recreation Park N’ Ski program and include Hanna Flats, the Priest Lake Golf Course, and Chipmunk Rapids on the west side of the lake as well as Rocky Point, Coolin Mountain, and Priest Lake State Park on the east side of the lake.  The Nordic Club’s volunteers groom Hanna Flats and provide back-up grooming at the golf course and Priest Lake State Park. (Hill’s Resort normally grooms the golf course utilizing the clubs grooming equipment, and the Priest Lake State Park has their own grooming equipment.) Park N’ Ski permits are available at local vendors including Hill’s Resort, the Tamrak Hardware, and the Priest Lake State Park. The permits cost $25 for a full season, or a $7.50 permit is good for one to three days per vehicle.  Funds collected locally from the Park N’ Ski program help cover about 50% of the clubs grooming operations cost.  

New this coming season, says Weitz, the Chipmunk Rapids trail system will be groomed once again. “Near milepost 23 on Idaho State Highway 57, these trails have not been groomed for several years. This 10-mile loop system of trails provides a variety of terrain with spectacular views of Kalispell Marsh, Priest River and the Selkirk Mountains.”  Club volunteers have been clearing trees and rocks from the trails and getting the trails ready for grooming as soon as there is sufficient snow.

The Priest Lake Nordic Club is an all-volunteer non-profit organization that was founded in the 1990s to enhance and groom cross-country ski trails around Priest Lake. The first Nordic Center was located at the Priest Lake Golf Course club house, and now Hill’s Resort is the Nordic Center location, where you can now rent ski and snowshoe gear. Since 2004, the club has conducted kids ski outings for local students, says Weitz. “During each session, Nordic Club volunteers fit the students with the equipment and provide basic ski instruction and assistance as they ski around the golf course.” The Priest Lake Nordic Club has already scheduled six elementary school outings to be held on Thursdays and Fridays in January and February 2020, and volunteers are always needed for the kid’s ski program (contact the club if you are interested). The club is also a co-sponsor of the Idaho Parks and Recreation annual “Free ski day” at the Indian Creek Unit of the Priest Lake State Park.  2020’s Free Ski Day will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday January 4. You can find more info about the Priest Lake cross-country ski and snowshoe trails at Priestlake.org/activities/snow-fun