Active Good, a new Sheridan nonprofit, partners with SCLT to groom Red Grade Trails for people-powered winter use
Skiers, snowshoers, fat bikers and people-powered outdoor recreation enthusiasts alike have a new way to enjoy their beautiful Bighorns backyard this winter as a Sheridan-based nonprofit startup, Active Good, has partnered with Sheridan Community Land Trust to groom Red Grade Trails for shared use this winter.
Founded in late 2020 by a trio of active outdoor recreation enthusiasts living in Sheridan who seek to do good in their community, 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,” explained 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,” Erik affirmed.
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.”
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 boardmember, said winter conditions at the trails can be quite unpredictable. “You never know what you’re going to get,” she relayed. “This opens up a whole new area for our community. It’s a game changer.”
Cofounder Kameron Condos said grooming will alleviate obstacles like deep and drifted snow so folks can experience what he described as “the silence and majesty of winter.”
“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 that Kameron 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.
“When gliding through the trees on Tip of the Woods,” he relayed, “it actually felt a little bit like riding my mountain bike. I grinned ear to ear.”
At 24 inches wide and 58 inches long, Kameron said, “Olaf can wiggle into places a snowmobile could only dream of going. This allows him to create very narrow, interesting, winding and compacted single-track trail in the winter.”
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, Kameron said visitors should kindly 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,” Kameron explained.
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.
For all users, Kameron said it’s best to avoid leaving ruts – be it with tires, snowshoes, skis or feet. “Any holes or lumps created will just lower the quality for the next user. If the trails seem too soft, it might be best to turn around and come later,” he stated.
Similar to “Friends Of” groups that seek to improve national and state parks and recreational trail systems, Active Good’s founders see opportunities to do active good year-round, locally and beyond.
Erik said they’d like to help “organizations across the state build and maintain outdoor recreation trails and facilities, support rides, runs and races, and hold clinics and educational workshops.”
All three cofounders encouraged anyone interested in helping to visit the Active Good website (www.activegood.org), Facebook page (www.facebook.com/activegood.org) or Instagram (@activegood307) to learn more and sign-up for volunteer opportunities. The website also includes a map with an updated groomer’s report.
SCLT Executive Director Brad Bauer said community partnerships have been essential in creating new opportunities for outdoor recreation in Sheridan County, and this partnership with Active Good is another example of how quality of life infrastructure like Red Grade Trails help create a thriving community.
“When our community trails were originally conceived, they were envisioned as a way to bring people in our community together – for recreation, for wellness and for fun,” he relayed. “Seeing a group of community members so excited for and so appreciative of their community trails partner with us to create opportunities for even more people to get outdoors is awesome. It truly puts the ‘community’ in community trails.”
For now, Active Good’s effort will be focused near Sheridan County. This winter, Erik said that means grooming Red Grade Trails so people can enjoy the outdoors at a time when getting outdoors is more important than ever.
“I think people have really experienced the damaging effects of being inside all of the time,” he offered and concluded, “Having jewels like Red Grade Trails available year-round will be one of the keys to our community’s health, well-being, and growth now and into the future.”
That sentiment was echoed by Kolbi, who, like many visitors, will relish in having a winter oasis a little closer to home. “It’s always such a wonderful way to start or end my day – to run or bike with my dog through the snow.”
For more information about Sheridan Community Land Trust or to view and print trail maps, please visit https://sheridanclt.org.