There have been lots of nice compliments about the grooming this season. Some of the remarks come from long-time locals who have shaken their heads in disbelief at the changes that have taken place. Some have come from folks like a visiting elite skier who’s got plenty of experience against which to compare CB Nordic. By March, even the groomers started to let themselves believe that maybe there really is a difference now. But the truth is that things like the grooming have been a long time coming. Grooming and working with a certain ethic is nothing new in the Upper Gunnison Valley.
What the industry calls “snow product” is not just the result of one driver nor of one machine. Rather, it’s the result of the ten years of work that Executive Director Keith Bauer and the staff of CB Nordic have done. It takes a vision to achieve trail corridors that braid like arteries and veins through shared lands and through a supportive community. Then it takes time to even begin to realize that vision.
Over time, it takes repeated work in order to build a reputation as a reliable partner that other entities feel they can trust. When the vision and trust are in place, then real investment can begin. From investment comes improved revenue and from revenue come improved budgets. Under wise not-for-profit leadership, those funds get plowed right back into the products and services of CB Nordic. With all the natural gifts around Crested Butte that money cannot buy, CB Nordic is putting money where value can be bought, things like good grooming.
In the precious few communities where a vision for large scale nordic trails has been brought to life, there exists an enchanting way of life. Affordable and public access to activity in nature exists right out the community’s back door. Skiing is a way of life and related ways of life are conserved, in part, by skiing.
But a vision is one thing, implementation is another. Thanks to CB Nordic Operations Manager Kevin Krill, grooming is no longer some job where close is good enough. Systems have become routines and routines have become habits and the habits are aimed at reliably reproducing good grooming on a daily basis. Sometimes Mother Nature throws more at the groomers than they can handle. Other times, the snowcats prove fickle no matter how much they are cared for. Part of being professional though is accounting for conditions and contingencies through the kind of discipline that Kevin has brought to the staff, eventually the manifest habits of groomers counteract the variables that are at first beyond their control. When that may be achieved, skiers can sense the hand of the groomers in the snow and the intention in the work.
No one at CB Nordic is getting rich. Driving heavy equipment at three in the morning is draining. Nevertheless, it is an ethic to treat grooming as a trade or even a craft instead of whatever the overarching American economic and class system may construe of the work. It’s part of an ethic that’s not new around Crested Butte. To do something well for its inherent value and measure it in terms both wider and deeper than dollars.