Part III – The Boutwell Hill Ski Club
Located on the Chautauqua Ridge, which on average exceeds annual snowfall totals across most of New York State, the Boutwell Hill Ski Club (BHSC) began developing the first groomed cross-country ski trail system in the County during the Fall of 2015. Through a stewardship agreement with the DEC, the Boutwell Hill Ski Club has been authorized to responsibly develop dedicated non-motorized, multi-use skiing trails in the northern portion of the Boutwell Hill State Forest. County resident, Andrew Dickson, was among the first to approach DEC with the proposal.
Once the agreement was established, several committed volunteers began putting in the hours required to transform logging roads and portions of the Earl Cardot Eastside Overland Trail system into a 3.4 mile collection of groomed skate and classic cross-country trails. The trail lineage has since grown to 5 miles, 10 when factoring in the adjacent ungroomed town and state forest roads.
Bill Scherman, board member for the BHSC, described the initial trail building process as labor-intensive. A primary concern was cutting and clearing out large logs from newly logged areas. About three outings were devoted to such work. Then it came time to cut brush and remove diseased and nuisance tree species. Next wet spots had to be drained and corduroy needed to be lain to provide a solid base for the looming snowfall.
One of the largest feats was the construction of a 30-foot bridge to allow access to the Homestead Loop trail from Arab Hill Road. The bridge crosses a creek and small ravine. We asked Bill if any of the volunteers are professional engineers, he said not exactly, “we’re just a bunch of guys with years of home repair experience.” He assured us the bridge is perfectly sound.
There are about five volunteers from the Ski Club the regularly groom the trails once winter arrives. It’s tough, cold work and requires a snowmobile that is powerful enough to pull a heavy roller and groomer. The snowmobile was purchased by a club member and a new roller was paid for by a grant from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. Scherman told us the lowest moment of this whole process was when someone stole the roller Allegany State Park gifted to BHSC last season and the original hand-built roller.
The goal is to eventually secure enough funding to purchase an enclosed groomer, which costs around $24k. An important message to communicate with skiers is that while the trails are groomed, they are not guaranteed to be freshly groomed. They can always be counted on to be skiable, providing weather conditions are favorable. The main priority is to maintain the base layer.
For Scherman, the best thing about getting involved with the Boutwell Hill Ski Club has been developing a relationship with the DEC, whose mission is not only conservation but to make state land multi-functional, and seeing the increase in names on the trail registers. Coincidentally, the trail system is very close to his residence, making this cause very “close to home.”
Boutwell Hill Ski Club is always looking for more volunteers. To get involved or make a donation, please visit their website: https://boutwellxc.wordpress.com/
To read more about Chautauqua County’s 75 miles of Cross-Country Skiing Trails, click here.