A Part of Central Oregon Skiing History
If you’ve been out on the trail over many years, chances are you’ve seen a familiar face, 5-6 days a week, working with a huddle of teens. Ken Roadman is a bit of a Central Oregon skiing icon, dedicating his time to coaching as well as serving on Sno-Park and land use planning committees. We caught him when he was standing still to chat about all things Nordic.
Meissner Nordic: You’ve been known as a key mentor for young racers and face of the Central Oregon Nordic community for years. What is your involvement with the Nordic scene?
Ken Roadman: I coach the Redmond high school teams. Ridgeview, Redmond and RPA. It’s so great. They’re great friends and so enthusiastic. You always have the best kids out, because it’s not an easy sport. They all have to work hard and they all appreciate coaching.
MN: Could you give us a little snapshot of your personal history with Nordic skiing?
KR: I grew up on a farm on the Umpqua. There wasn’t a lot of snow around there. (Laughs). After the service, I’d learned to ski at Mt. Ashland. In 1974, I moved to Bend from Southern Oregon. I started exploring the backcountry with a handful of others, climbing, telemark skiing.
MN: What were the trails like?
KR: There were a lot of people around, but there weren’t any, per se, trails. Jay Bowerman first started grooming the roads at what is now Meissner in the late 70s/early 80s with a snowmobile and tracksetter for classic. Going into places like Broken Top, you were pretty much bushwhacking, but the snowmobile club often helped access. Around 1992-1993, through a special use permit with Bend Park and Rec they would also groom at Skyliner Sports Complex right by Cascade Middle School. It was pretty great. You didn’t need to leave town to ski!
MN: Seems hard to imagine now. Do you feel the climate or snow pack has changed?
KR: Oh, god, yes. It’s changed a lot. When I first got here, I did a lot of climbing like South Sister. Coming up from Green Lakes, and going across, the glaciers were connected. From the bottom, we’d be stepping on snow. Now, I’m not even sure if the lower glacier — Clark? — even exists anymore. We’d have the US team in June here sometimes, and train through to the 4th of July.
MN: You’ve been involved in the planning and development of Central Oregon’s Sno-Parks. Clearly, with COVID, the popularity of skiing has exploded. What are your thoughts for people who express frustration with immense overcrowding with parking?
KR: First of all, with COVID, people are not carpooling, so that creates congestion. My main frustration is when they start parking to the East, they start angled parking, and we lose 10-15 spaces right there. So just practicing a wise use of it, and having consideration for others, and parking close to others rather than 5 feet of berth … Education is key. We have the capacity to park a lot more cars up there if people parked correctly. Get involved. We just need to get a pattern established to make that happen.
MN: The trails out there consist of so many different users. Any perspective on mixed use?
KR: There used to be a loggerhead between snowmobilers and skiers. One time, the Meissner groomer had broken down way out past Bitterbrush and Wednesdays. Out of options, we called the then-Moon Country Snowmobile Club. They brought their own cat over across the road, hooked our broken cat up and hauled it out. The next day, they even winched it onto a lowboy and delivered it to town! There’s a good partnership there because we have many of the same conflicts. Trying to get the Forest Service to put up barricades, or take them down. Being able to groom. We have a lot of commonalities. Everybody wants to recreate. Understand that we’re all out there to recreate to have a good time. Share what are commonalities instead of differences.