SHERIDAN — Active Good, a new Sheridan nonprofit, began partnering with Sheridan Community Land Trust to groom Red Grade Trails for multi-use in winter months.
Founded in late 2020 by a trio of active outdoor recreation enthusiasts living in Sheridan, Active Good aims to partner with organizations like SCLT to help more people enjoy the outdoors year-round close to home.
“Active Good is run by volunteers for volunteers,” said cofounder Erik Kulvinskas. “We have a passion for what we do and that is the only way this is going to work. We play on the trails we work on and are well aware of the gifts these resources are to our community. We want to take care of them so that they can be used for generations to come.”
They saw Red Grade Trails as a perfect place to start, because its accessible trailhead and proximity to town opens the door for people to more easily enjoy, rather than endure, winter.
“It gives folks another great place to experience with winter sports whether running, riding or skiing,” Kulvinskas said.
Cofounder Kolbi Condos compared it to Happy Jack Recreation Area outside of Laramie.
“I frequented Happy Jack on a near daily basis, all year round. The trail running, the mountain biking, fat biking, and skiing — it’s an oasis," Condos said.
Though Red Grade Trails is open to visitors year-round, accessing the system once the snow flies can be challenging.
Sarah Wallick, an avid recreator and SCLT board member, said winter conditions at the trails can be quite unpredictable.
“You never know what you’re going to get,” she said. “This opens up a whole new area for our community. It’s a game-changer.”
Condos said grooming will alleviate obstacles like deep and drifted snow.
“When groomed, just about anyone could go up there and enjoy the beauty that is Red Grade Trails,” he remarked, adding that, when groomed, visitors “can usually count on a relatively flat and stable surface, so elderly and other people that struggle with winter travel can enjoy the landscape up there.”
To do that, Active Good utilizes the services of Olaf the Snowdog, a tracksled popularized by Midwestern ice anglers Condos said is becoming more common for grooming single-track trail across the Mountain West. He described it as a snowmobile squished into something much smaller with the track directly under the engine, but like a train engine in that it pulls the operator who steers it with handlebars, like a bike.
At 24 inches wide and 58 inches long, the machine fits narrow spaces.
Active Good will groom as needed around dusk to minimize interfering with visitors’ experience. They plan to have signs out in areas while they’re grooming to give people a heads up. Grooming in the evening also allows the trail to harden overnight while working with the volunteer groomers’ work schedules.
If a visitor does encounter Olaf on the trail, Condos said visitors should step to the side because Olaf will need to “stay the course.”
When groomed, special equipment is not necessarily required for people recreating on foot. Running shoes and hiking boots will work, though Active Good advises that all cyclists use bikes fitted with tires 3.8 inches or wider.
“If using a bicycle not intended for snow travel, it will cause significant damage by creating deep ruts. Because of this, we encourage the use of fat bikes only,” Condos said.
He also advised cyclists to avoid skidding around corners and to hike their bikes along the side of the groomed trail in the event they encounter a hill they cannot ride up.
Any recreator leaving ruts is not recommended, as it lessens the enjoyable experience for the next user, Condos said.
Active Good’s founders see opportunities to maintain outdoor recreation trails and facilities, support rides, runs and races and hold clinics and educational workshops.
Anyone interested in helping should visit the Active Good website, activegood.org, Facebook page, Active Good, or Instagram, @activegood307, to learn more and sign-up for volunteer opportunities. The website also includes a map with an updated groomer’s report.
Active Good said it will operate primarily in Sheridan County for its first winter season, grooming Red Grade Trails.