Suzanne attended the summer meeting of the Winter Rec Advisory Committee, where funding decisions are made for the coming year, representing the Cabin Creek sno-park and trail system, and sends us this report:
The famous WRAC (Winter Recreation Advisory Committee) meeting in late August, which took place at the convention center in downtown Wenatchee (or in your kitchen if you were up for yet another Zoom experience, which I wasn’t), was not a particularly eventful affair. The WRAC determines how money coming into the state budget through sno-park permit purchases will be distributed. Most of the decisions were automatic; sno-park areas throughout the state are on grooming budgets approved for a three-year period before they are reviewed for any changes.
Cabin Creek and Erling Stordahl are bundled together for a single grooming budget. Rune Harkestad, the KSC president, is the sno-park designated contact for the grooming at both sites and, despite the fact that the budgets are approved in three-year cycles, submits an annual budget request. This year was the third in the latest Cabin Creek/Erling Stordahl grooming budget cycle. The budget Rune requested matched the amount that was approved for three years, approximately $130,000/ year. This amount does not quite pay for grooming Dec 1 through March 31. Rune requested more money two years ago but unfortunately the spokesperson for the CCWRC (Central Cascades Winter Recreation Council), an unincorporated entity that supposedly advocates for winter recreation at Snoqualmie Pass, waited until the KSC representatives had left the WRAC meeting and then claimed the extra money wasn’t needed. The three-year budget reflected that. Thus. for the past two years, Rune has submitted a special request for $15,000 additional funds to meet the shortfall, but even this extra amount has failed to meet the need and KSC has generously filled the gap. This year may be the same. Next year Rune will have an opportunity to request another increase. We will all hope the WRAC can agree to fund the full grooming needs at two of the most popular sno-parks in the state.
In addition to hearing and approving the three-year grooming budgets for sno-park grooming, the WRAC also hears special requests. As I mentioned above, Rune submitted a request for extra grooming money, which was approved. Rune also submitted a special request for $3,400 for gravel and grading of the road, for which KSC has a RUP (road use permit) through the USFS. This request was actually submitted last year and approved, but snow fell before the work could begin so he resubmitted it this year. As a follow-up, the USFS met with the KSC trail committee in September and has approved a number of trail improvements to increase grooming safety and efficiency, including the WRAC-funded gravel and grading.
Other interesting special requests included two to initiate sno-parks for backcountry skiing. These were accompanied by snappy digital presentations including precise maps and other pertinent information. One of the locations is off Tinkham Road. Although these new sno-park proposals are unlikely to happen this year, it is a sign of the increasing popularity of non-resort-dependent winter snow recreation in the state.
An important piece of information not shared at the meeting was who would get the grooming contract for Cabin Creek and Erling Stordahl for winter 2023-2024. Nick Whitman, the genius groomer everyone who can actually ski is praying gets it, has submitted his bid. He finds out in mid-November if it was accepted. Keep all those digits crossed.