A brand new $14,000 snowmachine may expand the number of trails in the Chilkat Valley that can be groomed for nordic skiing.

Haines Huts and Trails purchased the machine — and a trailer to haul it — with a grant from the Crossett Fund, which supports health resources for children in Southeast Alaska. It was recently delivered to Haines from Juneau and was quickly put to work grooming trails south of town.

There are already a handful of trails that are groomed by individuals around the Chilkat Valley. Among the popular areas are trails at 25 Mile Haines Highway, which have been groomed for years by neighbor Jim Stanford.

Eben Sargent, a board member for Haines Huts who has been spearheading the grooming project, said that the new snowmachine will complement Stanford and others’ private efforts.

“If you live in Mud Bay, you don’t necessarily want to drive out to 25 Mile to go skiing,” he said.

Sargent said the group will be more nimble and able to work on trails based on microclimates in the valley that have the most snow pack at any given moment now that it has this machine.

Potential trails include on Chilkat State Park road, Chilkoot Lake, and at Takshanuk Watershed Council property, and by the state fairgrounds.

“Here we have to be more adaptable because of the climate in the different areas,” he said.

Sargent said the group’s vision is to have multiple volunteers capable of driving the new machine, a Ski-Doo Scandic with a wide track that makes it more suitable for packing down trails than most machines used recreationally. Volunteer groomers could pull the trailer to different areas which would hopefully expand the number of skiable trails.

“The hope is if there’s community-available machinery, people can take it to groom where it’s best when it’s best,” he said.

He’s hoping the group will be able to scrounge together money from grants and community fundraising to pay for gas. The group is hoping to rely on a small pot of money from another non-profit to keep things going in the early season. Once they have a more reliable grooming system set up, they’re hoping community enthusiasm will keep donations running in.

“It’s kinda a chicken and egg with getting trails groomed and raising money for it,” Sargent said. “But we definitely will need community support.”

Stanford said the trails he grooms at 25 Mile have been increasingly popular in recent years. Several dozen skiers came out over the weekend for the first tracks of the season, and a group of youth skiers in Juneau was looking into coming out for a potential competition in the spring.

Stanford said he’s been grooming the trails for roughly 25 years, entirely with his own time and equipment. He got started grooming when he kept a team of dogs that he used for racing.

The state Division of Parks had previously helped with equipment and grooming time at the area, but for liability reasons, volunteers are no longer allowed to use the equipment.

The park ranger job in Haines has been vacant more than a year as the state parks system struggles with a labor shortage.

Stanford said getting volunteers to commit to grooming is always a challenge but he was excited by the energy of the Haines Huts crew.

“I’m really enthused with Eben and the Haines Huts guys,” he said. “It looks like there’s a younger crew and they’re really gung ho.”

Haines Huts is hosting a community meeting on Dec. 15 at 5 p.m. at the library about the grooming project.