Skiers in the SkierBob universe will ski for the last time this winter on tracks made by Ribbon Creek tracksetter Jeff. He is retiring after 38 years of tracksetting on the Ribbon Creek, Kananaskis Village, Skogan Pass and Bill Milne trails.
The first tracks I ever skied on back in 1997 were set by Jeff. At the time, I didn’t have a clue how they were made or who was making them. I remember how perfect they were, and how much fun I had. It got me off to a good start in my xc skiing career.
Jeff was setting tracks before the Nakiska downhill ski area was built on long-gone trails known as Stump Meadows, Timber trail, and a longer Coal Mine.
You can see the results of his handiwork on the header of this blog. All three photos are from the Bill Milne trail(formerly known as the Evan-Thomas trail).
Jeff was a pacesetter when it came to communicating trail conditions. His early-season photos taken right from the snowcat as he was grooming were much appreciated by my readers over the past few years.
I asked Jeff for some background regarding his long and storied career as a trails supervisor and tracksetter…
“I started grooming in the winter of 83-84 at that time there were 3 of us. My first ever track I laid down was on the Kananaskis Golf Course. For two winters we had about 10 km of trails there. Our go to machine was an Alpine Skidoo with Bachler twin tracksetters.
We also had over 68 km of groomed trails around Ribbon Creek.
In 1985 our old maintenance foreman thought it would be a great idea to have a little snowcat. We got a Bombardier Bombi. It really wasn’t much more than a glorified snowmobile but it had the power to pull. We had all kinds of homemade drag groomers that made the trails at least skiable.
I think it was around 1987 we got our first Pisten Bulley. A PB130. That machine was what transformed ski grooming in Kananaskis(Darwyn at Cypress is still using it).
With the larger snowcat and interest in xcountry skiing starting to grow, we had to transform the ski trails. All of the trails were widened and catted to as smooth as we could make them to allow for low snow grooming. New wider bridges were installed, brushing and so on.
In the early years summers had a 10 person crew and we spent most of the time installing bridges, drainages , campgrounds and keeping up to all the issues with a new 365 km trail network.”
Jeff and his wife Anne will be moving to Quebec where they will be closer to family.
As for future plans, Jeff commented, “I’m retiring but I’ve already lined up a part time job in Quebec transforming an old xcountry ski area into what it used to be. Also training new groomers to carry on this sport.”