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Kalamazoo Nordic Skiers


     Season Wrap-up Report

On March 9th, 2021, Kalamazoo Nordic Skiers volunteers put final touches on the season by 'summerizing' the snowmobile and storing the grooming equipment in the club's new lean-to at the Milham Park Golf course.

It was an eventful fall and winter, capped by ideal (though quite late) snow and cold that resulted in weeks of great skiing and grooming conditions.  Hundreds of enthusiasts took to the course and were able to enjoy both classic and skate skiing.  Donations from those skiers are the lifeblood of the organization, and this year's contributions were timely, substantial, and much appreciated.  An all-volunteer enterprise, 100% of donations received by KNS go directly into gas and oil to run the sled, as well as maintenance, repairs, and upgrades to the grooming equipment.  A big thank-you goes out to all those who contributed to making this season - in a challenging time in world history - such a success. Kudos go to groomer Dave DeBack, who conceptualized, fabricated, and mounted the new donation tube onto an existing building at the golf course.  The tube enabled and encouraged skiers to donate to the grooming operation without having to go online to do so.  It proved to be popular with skiers using the venue.

Additional expenses in the fall of 2020, outlined in a previous post, included the necessity of building a storage lean-to on the golf course and a major snowmobile engine rebuild.  The club secured a loan to cover those costs, and donations received this season enabled the club to repay more than 2/3 of the debt.  With good snow next year (and subsequent donations) the remainder of the loan, $800, should be able to be retired.  With all outstanding expenses paid for this year, the club treasury currently stands at $535.05, an amount that will enable a good start-up next winter.

One accomplishment of note was finally getting to the bottom of the snowmobile's electric start problem.  It is a big, heavy machine, and having to pull-start the cold engine was taxing the club's volunteer grooming force.  Jeff Newman did the legwork on diagnosing the issue and ordering the repair parts; now the sled starts and runs the way it should.  And, although it still takes a huge commitment of time and energy from the groomers to groom the trails, at least they aren't being worn to a frazzle by having to hand-crank the engine to life.

Groomers this year included Dave DeBack, Richard Neumann, Paul Wells, Tom Nehil and Greg Worsnop.  The club is grateful to these gifted and dedicated volunteers who work so hard to create the ski trails on the site.  Thank you!

Finally, we have received word that, because of many requests from the public, the golf course management will secure a rental fleet of skis, boots, and poles for next season.  That means skiers should be able to rent ski equipment in a one-stop process right on the grounds of the golf course.  This is a huge step in making the Milham Park ski venue a destination site that will attract outdoors-minded people from all over the city and the region.  We will have more information on this exciting news as it becomes available.

Zolton Cohen, Kalamazoo Nordic Skiers


     Season Start-up

It has been an unusually busy fall and early winter season for the Kalamazoo Nordic Skiers.  Many changes have occurred with the club's operations since we packed the grooming equipment away early in the spring of 2020.

In the late fall we were informed that the building where we had been storing the snowmobile and groomers at the Milham Park Golf Course would no longer be available to us for that purpose.  The result was that we had to quickly come up with another solution to keep the equipment safe and secure.

We liked having a site at the golf course because it makes it easier to not have to haul our heavy items to and fro on a trailer.  Plus, there is some measure of security at the golf course, with many different individuals out there to play golf or to work at the facility.

We asked for and were granted permission to build an 8x12 foot post-framed, steel-sided lean-to structure onto the east end of the existing PGA building.  After securing a $3,000 loan from an anonymous benefactor, Paul Wells and Zolton Cohen, with much additional help from Jeff Newman and his venerable Ford F-250 truck, built the lean-to over the course of several weeks.  There is a pressure-treated wood floor inside, and the club also paid an electrician to add an electrical receptacle to the now-enclosed wall of the PGA building.  There is a switched overhead light in the lean-to, and the receptacle can power a batter charger for the snowmobile or an additional portable work light.

Though it is a tight fit for the big snowmobile, it and both groomers fit well inside.  We're very happy to have a permanent, locked home that is all ours for the equipment - something we have wanted for many years.

     Snowmobile repairs

During last season's grooming efforts there were several mechanical issues that cropped up with the 2003 Ski Doo Rotax 500F snowmobile the club had purchased in 2018.  We first brought it to an independent mechanic for analysis, and traded him the old 1993 snowmobile to reimburse him for his time in tracking down several different problems. It turned out that the engine needed a complete teardown for a full gasket replacement, and for that we took the machine to a shop in Allegan.  Labor and parts for that work came to more than $712.  There is still a problem with the electric starting system that we're trying to run down.

Overall, between building the lean-to and the snowmobile repairs, the costs pretty much ate up the loan amount, and there is about $900 left in the club treasury to start the 2020/2021 ski season.  The loan must be paid back, so we hope you will be generous with your donations in order to ensure that the club can continue to groom the only cross country ski venue of its type within 70 miles - and all of it offered free of charge to the public.

     Other news

One of the most frequent questions that comes into the KNS website is where to rent cross country skis.  Sadly, the one venue in the area we know of that did that, Lee's Adventure Sports, has closed its doors.  So, to date, there does not seem to be any place to rent ski equipment locally.

However, there is some good and hopeful news on that front.  The management of the golf course will have a small stock of men's, women's and kid's skis, boots, and poles for sale this winter.  If there is enough interest in renting equipment, they say, there is a possibility they could offer that service in the future. Additionally, the golf course is working to enhance the ski outing experience by offering refreshments during the winter months.  Coffee and hot chocolate will be available, along with wine, beer and cocktails.  There is a chimnia set up on the patio (where all refreshments must be consumed, at a social distance, because of Covid restrictions) and several standing propane heaters.

We are excited that the golf course is embracing our efforts to get more people outside and enjoying themselves in the winter.  Please come out and take part in the great sport of cross country skiing, and then enjoy some apre-ski refreshment as you cool down and relax. Here is a link to the Ski Shop at Milham Park website, where they offer a wide range of downhill, snowboarding and cross country ski tuning and fitting services.

Zolton Cohen, Kalamazoo Nordic Skiers


     Yearend Wrap-up Report

In the late fall, Dave DeBack and Bob Kennedy culminated their search for an upgrade to our original 1993 Ski-Doo snowmobile by landing a low-mileage, long-track 2003 model by the same manufacturer.  Although it nearly emptied the club treasury, the prospect of having reverse gear, an electric starter and a newer, better machine was hard to pass up.  They purchased the sled and hauled it downstate, and once the snow and cold settled in it was put to good use grooming Milham Park Golf Course for cross country skiing.

The club's volunteer groomers, primarily DeBack and Richard Neumann, say the new machine makes grooming easier, faster and better.  Skiers who enjoy the golf course grooming owe a debt of gratitude to DeBack and Kennedy for taking the initiative in researching and then obtaining this fine piece of equipment that should serve for many years to come.  Donations to the club's efforts were down this year because of the late start to the season, polar vortex, and then lack of snow.  But if you want to see the only groomed cross country ski venue within 70 miles continue, please consider sending in a contribution through the KNS website:

It should not go unmentioned that Bob and Stephanie Kennedy purchased and donated the original Ski-Doo to the club when it first formed.  Thanks to their generosity, we have had 13 years of stellar ski grooming to enjoy.  Thanks, Bob and Steph!

The second major development in the club's fortunes might not have as much visual impact as the new snowmobile, but it is just as important.  Dean Marks, Director of Golf at Milham Park Golf Course, offered to let the club use a portion of a building on the grounds to store the snowmobile and grooming equipment during the summer months.

This is a big deal because we have always struggled to secure a safe and sheltered location to house those items.  For the last several years we simply loaded everything up on the flatbed trailer, dragged it to an out-of-the-way site on the golf course and lashed multiple tarps on top to keep out the rain.  That was risky.  Mice got into everything time and again, and it exposed the trailer to theft and vandalism, though neither, fortunately, occurred.

But now, with a great amount of help from Ron Williams from the golf course staff, the sled and groomers are stashed dry and safe, and out of the way of the employees who make the place run in the summer.  Paul Wells and Dave DeBack will add Stabil fuel stabilizer to the sled's gas tank and put the battery on a trickle charger, and that will be that until the snow falls again.  Thanks go to the Kalamazoo Municipal Golf Association, Dean Marks and Ron Williams for granting us this tremendously helpful storage solution.  We sleep a lot easier not having to worry about our equipment having to bear the brunt of the summer weather.

In addition to grooming the golf course for skiing in the winter, one of the goals of KNS is to make people aware of the Milham Park Golf Course and its many attributes.  You've all seen it in the winter.  Now go and golf it in the summer.  It's a gem of a place, and we're grateful to be a part of it.

Zolton Cohen, Kalamazoo Nordic Skiers


     Yearend Wrap-up Report

The 2017-2018 cross country ski season at Milham Park Golf Course came to an official end on Sunday, March 4th, when Richard Neumann, Jeff Newman, Dan Ferrara, Paul Wells and Zolton Cohen loaded the snowmobile and grooming equipment on the trailer and moved it to its on-site storage location.  An attempt to tape off the intake manifold of the snowmobile, it is hoped, will stop mice from using that particular port to build a nest in.

It was a streaky season in terms of ski conditions, with adequate snow starting around Christmas, and then several weeks of frigid temperatures that kept it from melting.  Those able to dress well enough to withstand the cold were rewarded with excellent trail conditions for an extended period.  Then the weather warmed suddenly and melted everything, and the season concluded with a sporadic series of storms and melting events.

Overall, the Kalamazoo Nordic Skiers' grooming effort had a good year, with no mechanical breakdowns on the aging Ski-Doo snowmobile, and energetic, comprehensive and timely grooming from (mainly) Richard Neumann.  Dave DeBack and Tom Nehil mapped out and several times groomed a classic-only ski trail through the interior of the course, which received good reviews from those who tried it.  Statistically, from Richard's notes, the volunteer groomers clocked 305 miles of grooming over 18 unique sessions, an average of almost 17 miles per foray.

The club treasury had expenses of $30 to fix a flat tire on the trailer and $93.00 in gasoline, and received donations in the amount of $650.16.  The current treasury balance stands at $2,674.32.

The club is on the lookout for another snowmobile, preferably a heavy duty, air-cooled, long-track, electric start model with a reverse gear.  While the current sled is still usable, one with an electric start and reverse gear would make it much easier for the volunteer groomers to get it in and out of the storage shed during the season, and to start up during cold weather.  That search will likely recommence in the fall, with a possible fund-raising drive needed to help defray the expense.

Lastly, because they donated cash to Richard while he was out grooming, we were not able to list on the website two donations to the club's efforts.  That cash, from Dave M.  on 12/31/17 and Terry O'C.  on 12/23/17 has been deposited into the club's treasury.

Thank you to all the generous skiers who donated to the grooming effort at Milham Park Golf Course this year, and especially to our volunteer groomers who work so long and hard to create a cross country ski trail everyone can enjoy at no cost.

Zolton Cohen - Kalamazoo Nordic Skiers

     Season Start-up

The 2017-2018 ski course grooming season at Milham Park Golf Course got off to a rocky start this year.  Assembling to haul the snowmobile and groomers out of storage on Monday, December 11, volunteers found one of the trailer's tires completely flat and not quickly repairable.  Jeff Newman took responsibility for getting the tire repaired, and everyone agreed to meet again on Wednesday, December 13. 

On that day, Dan Ferrara, Paul Wells, Richard Neumann, Jeff Newman and Zolton Cohen reconvened at the golf course and quickly put the wheel with its repaired tire (now with a tube inside) back on the trailer.  Newman's burly four-wheel drive Ford truck dragged the trailer and its load down the service road and everyone offloaded the groomers and snowmobile near the storage shed by the driving range, where the snowmobile spends the winter when not out grooming trails. 

After clearing mouse nests, weed seeds and other debris from inside the snowmobile's engine compartment, the team took turns yanking the starter cord to try to get the machine to fire up.  After removing the sparkplugs and shooting starting fluid into the combustion chambers, it finally roared to life and Neumann took it out for a spin. 

The following day, Neumann did the inaugural grooming, touching off the first of what are anticipated to be many days of good skiing. 

Thanks go to the Kalamazoo City Parks and Recreation Department, the Kalamazoo Municipal Golf Association, and the employees of Milham Park Golf Course for assisting the Kalamazoo Nordic Ski group in providing this free groomed cross country ski venue to the public.  As always, thanks to our many stalwart volunteers who groom the trails and maintain the equipment.  And finally, thank you to those who have so generously donated to the effort over the years. 

Zolton Cohen - Kalamazoo Nordic Skiers


     End of Season Wrap-up

The 2016/2017 cross country ski season started with a bang as snow fell aplenty in mid-December.  The Kalamazoo Nordic Skiers grooming team swung into action after six inches of the white stuff piled up on the ground, and local and regional skiers enjoyed several weeks of very good ski conditions.

Unfortunately, that just about sums up the extent of the season.  Snow fell only intermittently after that initial accumulation, and then it melted quickly under unseasonably warm temperatures.  Overall, it was disappointing year in terms of efforts expended compared with available ski days.  On March 11, 2017, Dave DeBack, Paul Wells, Richard Neumann and Zolton Cohen packed up the equipment on the trailer and moved it to the east side of the golf course for storage over the summer.

On top of the lack of snow, Head Groomer Richard Neumann discovered a leak in the snowmobile's gas tank that required him to leave the sled parked outside so fumes wouldn't build up in the golf course shed where we usually stash it during grooming season.  Jeff Newman generously purchased and donated a used tank, and we will figure out over the summer how to go about repairing the leak so we'll be ready to go next fall.

Even though the season was short, many people donated a combined total of $301.23 to the cause.  Expenses amounted to $98.80 for gas and oil.

See you next year...

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