Russ Barkman

Snowmobile grooming in the pre-snowcat years | Photo by Russ Barkman

Russ Barkman: Meissner Sno-Park Groomer 1998 to 2006
By Whit Ross

We Nordic skiers are so lucky to have two great options for groomed skiing close to Bend, the Mt. Bachelor Nordic Center and Virginia Meissner Sno-Park. One obvious benefit of our club-run ski area at Meissner is that it saves us lots of driving time. Other great benefits of Meissner are the sense of community and the friendships that have evolved from our love of Nordic skiing. What many people don’t realize is that the wonderful groomed trails and consistent grooming schedule that we enjoy today at Meissner took over two decades to develop.

A significant part of that development has been attributed to the volunteer work of Russ Barkman. Russ not only dedicated long hours to grooming trails, he also spent many hours on the grooming committee, selecting and buying new grooming equipment. Russ’s hard work kept the Meissner dream alive during many years of financial hardship for the Tumalo Langlauf Club (the predecessor to today’s Meissner Nordic Ski Club).

Another outcome of Russ’s work is that Tumalo Langlauf Club had constantly improved its grooming equipment in order to continue to improve the ski experience at Meissner Sno-Park.

I asked Russ for his perspective on Meissner Nordic’s progress:

Whit: What were the biggest changes you observed at Meissner Sno-Park during your tenure as a groomer?

Russ: Well, in 1998 there were very few cars in the parking lot even after grooming. In 1999, Meissner Sno-Park became a place for high school kids to train with their coaches. By 2006, there were lots more people skiing at Meissner, and the parking lot was widened to accommodate parking on both sides of the Sno-Park. Another ongoing change was buying newer equipment every couple of years in an endeavor to improve the grooming.

Whit: What were your biggest challenges of grooming?

Russ: The biggest challenge was too much snow! Back when we were grooming with snowmobiles, we had to wait a day or two to let the deep snow settle before we could groom. The next biggest challenge was the canted hillside on both Snowbush and Tangent and trying to keep the machine upright.

Whit: How long did it take to you to groom?

Russ: Back then we were grooming Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday and I was usually grooming from 7 am until noon, although sometimes I was grooming/working for 8 hours because I had to pick up the snowmobile from the Bend Parks and Rec lot and transport the machine to Meissner, and then deliver the snowmobile back to the Bend Parks and Rec lot on the way home.

Whit: What was the most unusual thing you saw while grooming?

Russ: Several deer up to their backs in the deep snow!

Whit: What was your fondest memory from your days of grooming?

Russ: The fantastic turnout for the High School State Championships. It would never have happened at Meissner without the grooming. Also, Meissner became a frequent training site for World Cup athletes like Patrick Weaver, Justin Wadsworth, Ben Husaby, Beckie Scott, and Suzanne King.

Whit: What is the most important skill or knowledge to have as a groomer?

Russ: To keep the grooming machine at or below about 5-7 mph. This speed creates the best possible surface for skiing.

Whit: What is your overall summary of Meissner Sno-Park during your tenure?

Russ: Groomed trails are what made Meissner Sno-Park take off! It’s now the busiest Sno-Park in the state.

Groomers are a special breed! They must endure harsh weather conditions, have thorough knowledge of the machines, and be dedicated to the final product (i.e., great corduroy!). Russ has been a skilled and passionate volunteer, dedicating over 3,000 hours of unpaid time creating fun and skiing for everyone at Meissner Sno-Park. Thank you, Russ, for your time, expertise, stories, and humor. You represent a significant chapter in Meissner Nordic’s history, and you are, and always will be, appreciated.

Since Russ has announced he will be moving back to Michigan next spring, please be sure to thank Russ for his many years of service to the Meissner Nordic community. You can find him on the trails at Meissner Sno-Park or Mt. Bachelor.