By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
If you were on First Street about noon today, you might have seen the Snow Dance Ski Association's new Bombardier snow groomer arrive in town on a semi.
The groomer was purchased used from Big Mountain Ski Resort in Whitefish, said Dave Martens, ski hill manager.
"What it will do for us is change skiing as everybody knows it in Bear Paw," Martens said.
So would some snow.
"It's been nasty. We just haven't had any snow yet," Martens said.
A few weeks ago, there was an 8-inch base, but it didn't last, he said.
When snow does fall, the association's recent aquisition should have the get up and go to allow members to pack snow clear to the top of the mountain, a first for the local ski area.
Association president Claire Stoner said the hill still has a small base of snow, but not nearly enough for skiing. She said the hill needs 3 feet of snow, which packs to about a foot of snow, in order to open.
Martens said he hopes the arrival of the Bombardier will prove well-timed.
The National Weather Service is predicting a 30 percent chance of precipitation, with temperatures ranging between 2 and 26 degrees Saturday and Sunday.
The process of packing snow would probably have to continue over two or three weeks before the hill would open, Stoner said.
The groomer was purchased by a member of the ski association, which operates the hill for the Chippewa Cree Tribe. The association will lease the groomer from that individual, Martens said, declining to name the person.
Beginner and intermediate skiers should be able to attempt the top half of the mountain once it is packed, Stoner said. Previously only advanced skiers could use the top half.
The new groomer will also allow the association to keep a better base on the rest of the mountain, she said.
She said that most winters the hill is visited by 100 skiers each weekend. The hill, operated by volunteers, is only opened weekends.
Stoner said the association has not worked out a price for leasing the groomer, but it will be set at a level that the association can afford so that it can also afford maintenance over the years.