JACKSON — On a day with fall weather better suited for golf than thoughts of cross-country skiing, Monday marked the beginning of a new era for the non-profit, 154-kilometer Jackson Ski Touring Foundation, as the Northeast’s largest cross-country center held a ribbon-cutting to dedicate a $500,000, 3 3/4-mile trail and eight-bridge expansion.
Approximately 40 people gathered Monday morning at the new Kellogg Trailhead in Pinkham Notch, with the foundation’s Executive Director Breanne Torrey and President Kevin Killourie welcoming board members, U.S. Forest Service officials, and ski industry and Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce representatives.
Killourie and Torrey — now in her third year as executive director after succeeding Thom Perkins, who retired after 36 years — and Killourie thanked board members and longtime skiers for their support.
“These trail expansions and bridges were funded by our skiers and built for our skiers,” Torrey said. “This is what makes Jackson special and the Nordic (skiing) community so special.”
Added Killourie, a Realtor at Badger Realty: “I am amazed as time goes by that these projects take a long time. Today is truly a celebration for all of us.”
Also on hand was Jessyca Keeler, executive director of Ski NH, a trade association representing 34 alpine and cross-country resorts in New Hampshire.
Keeler said that despite last season’s disappointing snowfall, member resorts such as Jackson Ski Touring and Waterville Valley are still pressing ahead with capital projects that will enhance skiers’ experiences this season, especially the snowmaking improvements going on at many member resorts.
Forest Service officials helping to cut the ribbon included Winter Sports Team Leader Shelly Grail Braudis and Eastern Region Winter Sports Team Specialist Joe Gill, as the new trails and bridges are located on White Mountain National Forest land.
In her remarks, Grail Braudis said: “The word ‘partnership’ is the word that comes to mind, because projects like these are what we are all about: We are on public land, but we are working very closely with a private non-profit organization.”
Without the help of people like the “folks at Jackson Ski Touring, we would not be able to provide an amazing world-class trail system that we are able to provide here at Jackson,” said Grail Braudis, who is based in at WMNF headquarters in Campton.
She noted that Gill, of Jackson, is the Forest Service permit administrator who has been working closely with Jackson XC on the expansion.
Gill, she said, brought an expertise and knowledge of local old logging trails and terrain to the project, a huge help when it comes to rerouting and laying out trails.
She also praised local contractor and attendee Tommy Fadden of Fadden Logging of Conway, who constructed the trails.
“He and his crew did a spectacular job. They make our work easy. Like Joe, he knows the area like the back of his hand … We look forward to skiing it this winter, and we know that it’s going to be a good winter,” said Grail Braudis.
The $500,000 cross-country expansion, said to be the largest in the Northeast this season, perhaps in the U.S., includes:
• Ellis River Trail — .4 km (1/4 mile).
• Hall Trail — .8 km (1/2 mile).
• Keeney Trail — 4 km (2.5 miles).
• Kellogg Trail — .8 km (1/2 mile).
In addition, two new bridges, 16 and 22 feet long, were added along the Hall Trail; four new bridges, ranging from 20 to 35 feet in length, were installed on the Keeney Trail; and two bridges were replaced: the 60-foot Meserve Brook Bridge and 35-foot Spruce Brook Bridge.
Killourie, Torrey and Trails Committee Chair Dr. Ken Kimball said the trails were prepared with a conservation mix of hardy grass and hay, and are ready for the first significant snowfall.
The goal has been to smooth out the terrain to allow Jackson to open trails earlier in lighter snowfall and be able to better groom them.
“Jackson offers a tremendous amount of opportunities for different levels of skiers,” said Kimball, director of research for the Appalachian Mountain Club. “Everything from the flats on the gentle golf courses to very big complex challenges that many people like.
“The trails and area we are talking about today,” he continued, “is what I call the ‘Grand Loop,’ where you can start out from the center in the village and make your way up the Hall Trail and back down, and the connectors then put you back to the trails that lead you back to the village.
“It’s almost 30 kilometers long, and it’s a favorite for many individuals who come up: It’s their winter challenge, and that’s the beauty of all of the pieces that we have up here.”
The new Kellogg Connector Trail eliminates a formerly wet area between the end of the Ellis River Trail and the Rocky Branch Trailhead parking lot in an area that needed a lot of snow in order for it to be groomable.
Kimball said the new terrain follows the contour lines just below the height of land on the Maple Mountain Loop, where fantastic views are to be enjoyed.
He said the Keeney Trail fulfills late JSTF board member John Keeney’s vision to create a trail that runs from the scenic vista on the South Hall Trail to the popular Ellis River Trail for intermediate to advanced skiers.
Realtor Dick Badger spoke about his longtime late friend Keeney.
“John was very instrumental in getting cross-country skiing going around here back when Jackson Ski Touring was founded in 1972,” Badger said prior to the ceremony, which was held just above the Rocky Branch trailhead parking area off Route 16.
Also speaking was Gillian Kellogg, widow of former Jackson XC board member Charles Kellogg, a 1965 U.S. Biathlon National Champion and 1968 Olympic Winter Games cross-country competitor.
Torrey said Jackson — like other local ski area operators — is hoping for an early opening.
“Thousands of New Englanders are inspired by winter to get outdoors for fun, fitness and fresh air,” she said.
“Snow has already fallen on our new trails and bridges, leading us to be optimistic about a Dec. 10-15 opening, although we have been known in the past to open Thanksgiving week. If that happens, we’ll be really thankful, for sure,” said Torrey.