- Associated Press - Friday, November 27, 2015

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) - Ski season is just around the corner, and many Laramie residents are watching the weather reports in anticipation of hitting the slopes and trails.

For those who head east to Happy Jack Recreation Area for Nordic skiing, the nonprofit Medicine Bow Nordic Association has overseen grooming of the trails for more than 20 years.

One of the volunteers at the heart of the association, who has been with it since its founding, is Van Jacobson.

The retired accountant is an outdoor sports enthusiast who has spent the last four decades skiing, biking and running, as well as working with local organizations that promote those activities.

“I do something six days a week,” he said.

Jacobson move to Laramie from Jackson in 1965 to attend the University of Wyoming. Both his parents were skiers, and the sport has been part of his life as long as he can remember.

“You either sat in the car at the bottom of the ski hill while they went skiing, or you got out of the car and went skiing,” he said.

Jacobson spent his working career as an internal auditor at UW from 1976 until his retirement in 2009. A couple years after he started working, he joined a noon-hour running group on campus.

Taking up regular exercise helped him quit smoking and lose weight, and he’s been a regular devotee of endurance sports ever since.

Most activities on skis or two wheels are part of the mix - Nordic skiing, backcountry skiing, alpine skiing, mountain biking, road biking, fat biking and gravel biking. He doesn’t run as much these days, but he’s still a regular participant in the Hapi-ness 5k every May.

His accounting skills lend themselves to recordkeeping of all types, and he maintains a spreadsheet with 16,500 rows of data about his exercise history.

“Being an accountant, I log everything,” he said.

Throughout the course of almost four decades, he’s tallied 16,000 running miles, 47,600 miles on the bike, including 21,500 miles on the mountain bike, and 2,400 hours of cross-country skiing, mostly at Happy Jack.

“I’m up there all the time,” he said.

Some ski trails around Pole Mountain have been around for decades, dating back to the days when the downhill ski area was operating. For many years, UW had a ski team, and the athletic department maintained the trails.

In the early 1990s, the ski team was cut, and local cross-country skiers scrambled to figure out how to maintain the trails.

“We weren’t going to have groomed ski trails,” he said.

Jacobson and several others, including local skier and cyclist Nat Dyck, worked with the U.S. Forest Service on an agreement for volunteers to handle grooming using Forest Service equipment.

The Medicine Bow Nordic Association was formed in 1993, with Jacobson serving as the first president. He has been the treasurer ever since.

The group purchased its first snowmobile in 1996. Volunteers handled grooming duties on a rotating basis until 2002, when the association hired a part-time groomer.

“That was another big milestone,” he said.

The trails in the Pole Mountain area are perhaps most heavily used in the winter, with 25,000 skier visits per season. Teams from Laramie Junior High School, Laramie High School and UW use the trails for practice and racing.

“It’s pretty hard to get up there in the winter without having somebody in the parking lot,” he said.

MBNA members, working with the Forest Service, have expanded the trail system throughout the years and named the existing trails, with Jacobson part of that group.

Upper and Lower UW trails predated the club, hence naming them for the UW ski team that used them first. They re-routed Ridge Trail so it wouldn’t blow free of snow, and they scouted the route for the Snowshoe Trail.

Jacobson designed Crow Creek Loop and his namesake loop that takes the trails to the southeast.

The trail design process can’t be hurried, he said.

After coming up with a preliminary route, he would ski it across a range of snow conditions. Then he would come back in the summer to see what the terrain looked like without snow.

“You end up watching it for a couple years,” he said.

Jacobson is up at the trails almost daily, and when the skiing isn’t great, he’ll hop on his fatbike or even don a pair of snowshoes.

These days, cyclists and skiers are working together to manage the area for both fatbikes and skis. Jacobson helped designate a series of multi-use trails and configure them so they form a looped system from the Tie City Trailhead.

“We’ve got a decent series of trails out there, and now we’ve got them pretty well segregated,” he said.

The trails received 6 inches of new snow Friday, and they’ve been rolled several times to pack the snow in advance of grooming.

When head groomer Randy Hulme lays the first corduroy someday soon, the first tracks might belong to Jacobson.


Information from: Laramie Boomerang, https://www.laramieboomerang.com

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