Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
It’s a cooperative partnership between the United States Forest Service (USFS), the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), and Meissner Nordic Ski Club. The Meissner Nordic Community Ski Area is located entirely within the Deschutes National Forest. ODOT plows the parking lot using funds generated by the sale of Sno-Park Permits, and Meissner Nordic grooms the ski trails using funds donated by skiers and local businesses. Meissner Nordic doesn’t receive any funding from ODOT or from the USFS.
More info: https://meissnernordic.org/about/
Meissner Nordic Ski Club grooms the trails from December 1st through March 31st. Both the groomed ski trails and ungroomed snowshoe trails start at Virginia Meissner Sno-Park, located west of Bend on Cascade Lakes Highway near mile marker 14. The groomed Meissner trails can also be accessed from the Swampy Lakes Sno-Park which is located 2 miles further up the highway toward Mt. Bachelor. The high point in the trail system is at 5,860 feet and the low point is at 5,020 feet.
More info: https://meissnernordic.org/trails/
Meissner Nordic posts the latest trail information on the Grooming page on our website. In January 2022 we switched to grooming 7 days/week and added a real-time map showing where the snowcat is located and which trails were groomed that morning.
More info: https://meissnernordic.org/grooming/
Because Meissner trails are located on public land, there’s no fee to use the trails. However, Meissner grooming is entirely funded by donations from individuals and local businesses. So, if you enjoy the trails, please consider making a donation to support our efforts. You can donate online using the link below, or at the Sno-Park in the blue cash box located next to kiosk signboard. Or, mail a check to Meissner Nordic, PO Box 2032, Bend, OR 97709-2032.
More info: https://meissnernordic.org/donate/
In November 2022 we installed a new weather station at Virginia Meissner Sno-Park. You can find the current weather conditions as well as the Wanoga Butte weather report and links to Mt. Bachelor weather/webcams on our Weather page.
More info: https://meissnernordic.org/weather/
Yes. We ask that users of the Sno-Park and the trails practice accepted etiquette for ski trail and Sno-Park use. Meissner Nordic discourages overnight camping in the lot during the winter because it can interfere with ODOT plowing. On the trails, we discourage walking, running, biking and snowshoeing on the groomed ski trails. These can damage the trails as well as create safety hazards for skiers. A full list of Trail Etiquette & Safety Recommendations can be found on our website.
More info: https://meissnernordic.org/trail-etiquette/
No. The USFS lists the following restrictions on their website: “Area closed to dogs November 1 – May 1. Closed to snowmobiles.” All Sno-Park and trail areas NORTH of Cascade Lakes Highway prohibit dogs during these same Winter dates. In addition, the groomed ski trails are closed to cars & trucks from December 1st through March 31st.
No. The agreement between Meissner Nordic and the Forest Service does not provide Meissner Nordic with any enforcement authority. The USFS does not currently have any rules or regulations directly prohibiting people from doing these activities, however they do design and designate trails for specific uses. Snowshoers, hikers, and runners can ensure their continued access to this area by using the designated snowshoe trails. These are marked with blue diamonds with a yellow snowshoer in the center. If snowshoers, hikers, and runners must use designated ski trails they should walk at least 2 feet to either side of the groomed trails. If you observe people walking on the groomed trails, we recommend politely asking them to walk off to the side of the trail, and perhaps mention that the grooming of the trails is supported by donations from the community.
The Central Oregon Trail Alliance (COTA) grooms a network of trails for fat bikes at Wanoga Sno-Park. The USFS doesn’t currently restrict fat bikes at Meissner Sno-Park, but in the interest of providing a variety of different recreation opportunities and sharing our public lands, COTA, Meissner and the USFS all strongly encourage fat bikes to ride at Wanoga rather than Meissner.
No. Virginia Meissner Sno-Park is off the grid so there’s no electricity for lighted signs.
No. Meissner Nordic is an unstaffed, non-profit club on public land, so for-fee activities are prohibited. Thus, there are no on-site rentals or other services. There are several ski shops in Bend where you can rent skis before coming up to the Sno-Park.
No, you’ll need to purchase your permit before coming up to the Sno-Park. Permits are available at several outdoor shops in Bend, including Sunnyside Sports, Gear Fix, Mountain Supply, and WebSkis.
Unfortunately, no. Meissner Nordic’s grooming agreement allows us to groom the ski trails, but we are not in control of parking activities. We continue to remind and encourage people to follow the “Head In Parking” and “No Parking” signs put up by the Forest Service. There are no signs mentioning angled parking vs. “straight in”, so it relies on educating users about parking etiquette.
Currently, no. Meissner Nordic has added quite a few signs in the last five years (directional signs, informational signs, safety signs, and notices to dog owners). The Meissner Nordic board of directors has discussed this at length and feels we’ve reached the level of “sign fatigue” where there are so many signs people become less likely to read them. We’ll continue to evaluate the greatest need for signage, and will adapt accordingly.
No. Meissner Nordic can’t ban sledding at Swampy Sno-Park, only the Forest Service can do that.
Yes, there are no fees for skiing on the groomed trails at Virginia Meissner Sno-Park. Grooming is a free community service we provide to everyone who skis on the Meissner trails, but between fuel and maintenance and depreciation on the snowcat it costs tens of thousands of dollars per year to accomplish. If you want to see grooming continue in the future, please donate to Meissner Nordic Ski Club.
Donate here: https://meissnernordic.org/donate/
Grooming perfect corduroy is a complex art and science that is influenced by multiple factors including: temperature variations, wind, snow type, sun and shade exposure, frequency and amount of snowfall, type of grooming machine and the attached implements, time of day grooming occurs, speed of the machine, experience of the groomers and more. When Meissner Nordic’s groomers work on the trails they consider all of these factors. We are lucky to have two very experienced groomers who have been with us for many years, and who work late night and early morning hours. The groomers are the only paid staff that we have, all other work is accomplished with volunteer effort.
We have two machines for grooming: a PistenBully 100 snowcat (PB 100) and a Ski-Doo Skandic snowmobile with a Ginzu grooming implement attached to the back.
Our first snowcat was a BR 400 which we used for years, but by 2013 it had become too maintenance needy and the decision was made to purchase a replacement. We chose a PB 100 which was purchased with donations from supporters and sponsors in a campaign that raised $115,000, and with a $75,000 bank loan. The 2013 PB 100 was our primary grooming machine for eight seasons until 2021 when we traded it in on a new and improved PB 100. The 2021 PB 100 list price was $250,000 and after trade-in our net price was $165,000 which we paid from the reserve fund we had been building for years. The snowcat’s weight and power allow us to manage heavy snowfall and churn up hard-packed snow. Assuming no mechanical issues, grooming all the trails at Meissner takes 6 to 8 hours. Depending on snow conditions, the PB 100 burns 6-8 gallons of diesel fuel per hour.
The Ski-Doo Skandic with its Ginzu attachment complements the snowcat and allows us to groom the narrow or twisty trails and touch up the primary trails when there has been little change in the trail conditions. In low snow conditions, we use it so we don’t find ourselves grooming dirt into the snow. Since the Skandic is small, it is not helpful when we receive big snowfalls. A volunteer corps of groomers usually drive the snowmobile unless our primary groomers determine that it is the best or only (due to mechanical issues) means of setting the trails that day. It burns about a gallon of fuel every 4 hours.
Tilling is essentially “churning” up the snow. The tiller is attached to the back of the cat and contains a spinning auger bar and heavy plastic combs. The speed at which the auger bar spins impacts how well we are able to tear apart the snow or ice and lay it down again as corduroy. When there is fresh snow, the tiller does not have to work very hard. When conditions are icy, the auger bar needs to spin quickly to churn the trail surface into fine particles, which the combs press into new corduroy. With hard snow the auger bar has a hard time maintaining speed, so we must keep a shallow depth of cut to keep the bar spinning.
The cat always moves at a relatively slow pace, regardless of the conditions. When conditions are ideal, the cat can go full speed approximately 7 mph. During freeze-thaw cycles we run the cat much slower to allow the tiller more time to process the snow. The snowmobile also drives relatively slowly. In icy conditions, we will drive more slowly. We also run over a trail multiple times with the snowmobile to put out a quality product.
The blade is the implement attached to the front of the cat and is mostly used to grade and flatten the trail. The blade cuts into high points and brings the snow into holes or to the low side of the trail. It does crunch up the snow some and helps the tiller process snow, but the primary function of the blade is moving snow to create a flat, level trail.
In an ideal world, we would receive moderate amounts of snowfall every couple of days that could be mixed into the existing base to keep the trails fresh, smooth, and firm. However, Meissner’s geographical location on the lee side of the Cascades brings inconsistent snowfall. When the area experiences cold temperatures and low humidity and receives no new snow, good trail conditions can be maintained if there is already a firm base. Too much snow all at once makes the trails too soft and as a result, trail users’ poles punch through, which creates challenging skating conditions. No new snow conditions, accompanied by significant temperature fluctuations and higher humidity create a freeze-thaw cycle. When this happens, the trails become icy and require significant mechanical assistance to churn up the ice and set nice corduroy and classic tracks.
The best time to groom Meissner’s trails is early in the morning. Our groomers begin work late at night and work until the early morning. When the temperature fluctuates significantly above and below freezing, it can be beneficial to groom in the late afternoon when the snow is somewhat melted to let the trail “set up” overnight. When this is done, early morning skiers will experience icy corduroy, but as it warms the trails become nice. If someone skis on those trails just after they have been groomed in the late afternoon, this destroys the corduroy and leaves frozen ski tracks in the snow for the next morning, which results in grumpy early morning skiers and dangerous conditions. We have considered grooming in the late afternoon but have decided not to because of the number of trail users at that time and the possibility of dangerous conditions the following day.
The snowshoe trails that start at Meissner Sno-Park are shown on this map, including distances and difficulty ratings.
Use of snowshoes are recommended. Individuals may find that boots and shoes are adequate for support and traction on cold, well-packed snowshoe trails. As the snow warms during the day, it may loose strength and individuals in boots and shoes may begin to post-hole, suddenly plunging knee deep into the snow. This can be hazardous for oneself and the post-holes can be hazardous for others. Even on cold days, post-holing is possible adjacent to the packed trail and could result in injury due to hazards hidden beneath the snow. Individuals in boots and shoes may also find it difficult to move off the trail in deep snow when passing others.