One of Methow Trails’ longest-serving ski patrol ambassadors skied his last official shift a week ago. Bob Naney, who started volunteering for Methow Trails in the 1980s, has participated in many projects — such as building boxes for the Pisten Bullies — but his primary volunteer gig for 35 years has been skiing the trails to provide information to skiers, checking passes, responding to medical situations, and helping skiers learn more about the organization that keeps 200 kilometers of Nordic skiing trails groomed throughout the winter.
“Originally it was truly a ski patrol,” Bob says of the early group of volunteer patrollers. “We’d get certified in first aid and wilderness medicine classes; we carried radios and we’d ski around with large first aid kits. The emphasis was on being out there to respond to injuries.”
Over the years, though, Bob says, the emphasis has been more on providing information to skiers, especially since most skiers carry cell phones and coverage is pretty good in most places, with the exception of the Sun Mountain area trails.
Although in recent years Bob has spent his volunteer shifts in all areas of the trail system, in the early days he spent a lot of time patrolling in the Rendezvous. “I liked that a lot. It was generally the better skiers in the Rendezvous, so there was less potential for something to happen,” he says. “But if something happened,” he added, “it was going to be serious.”
Bob has seen many changes in the trail system over the years. The Gunn Ranch Trailhead, for example, is a fairly recent development. “They would just groom it for the triathlon,” he says, “so we got to ski it for a few days around that race.” Then for years Gunn Ranch was an unofficial trailhead, largely unknown to anyone but locals, a far cry from the bustling launch point for skiing, fat biking, dog skiing and hut trips that it is today.
Bob notes that dogs are welcome on more trails now than in the early days, and points to the increased number of multi-use trails as evidence of Methow Trails’ broad approach to supporting recreational trail use. “It used to just be skiing,” he says. “Now there are dogs, fat bikes, snowshoes — there are lots of options.”
Another change Bob has noticed is in skiers’ understanding of the necessity of buying passes. In the early days, he says, he’d encounter a lot of skiers who didn’t think that they needed to purchase trail passes. Now, though, he says, “people understand that it costs thousands of dollars each night to groom these trails. There’s personnel, fuel, equipment, maintenance, repair — it’s an expensive thing.”
Bob and his wife, Anne, moved to the Methow Valley in 1984 and Bob had a long career with the U.S. Forest Service. Their kids, Rachel and Sam, learned to ski here and participated on the Methow Valley Nordic Team, for whom Sam now works as Program Director. Bob’s grandkids — Sam’s two daughters — are now also growing up on the ski team. “It’s been fun to watch the program grow and change,” Bob says.
Although Bob is finished with his official four-hour patrolling stints, you’ll still encounter him out on the trails enjoying himself. If you’re lucky, he might dole out some local knowledge or share a bit of valley history. This photo of Bob is included so that you’ll recognize him out on the trails and thank him for his 35 years of service to Methow Trails.