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7 Surprising Facts About Cross Country Ski Grooming

Tips & Ideas Monday, March 21, 2016

It’s part art, part science, and makes the difference between a breezy ski or a total grind. Here’s what groomers wish you really knew.

1. It starts early so you can ski late.

Grooming starts in the fall; in some high-traffic, full-sun areas, resorts hand trim grasses down low to allow for the best surface at the earliest possible time. The first snowfalls are rolled with snowmobiles and rollers to compact snow and create a surface safe for the snowcats to work on. The more compacted the snow early on, the colder it stays on warm days, and the longer the trails remain skiable, well into spring.

2. Slow and steady wins it.

You can’t rush a good thing; if rollers or machines travel too fast over the snow, they bounce, creating an uneven surface. Remember that on your next snowy or windy day as you wait for crews to groom (and re-groom) trails.

3. Powder days are tough.

What makes for a great day on the slopes is a full-on assault for the grooming crew. Deep new snow often requires slower speeds, more fuel, and more than one pass to get the air out of it and create a skiable surface.

4. It takes some teeth.

Firm, crusty spring snow means surface renovation—dragging implements with teeth to take the ice edge off the surface.

5. Groomers have to think like skiers.

just thinking about they navigate the trail. They set tracks based on lines, camber, pitch, always thinking about trail flow and skier safety.

6. It’s expensive

The average snowcat lasts 8000 operating hours and costs $$. A large trail system in our region may require 1200 hours of snowcat grooming each year, not to mention supplementary grooming from snowmobiles and rollers.

7. It's worth it.

Better grooming equals more glide. The more uniform, compacted, and maintained the surface, the better you look and feel on skis. Skilled grooming also makes a huge impact on the safety of a trail for the user—descents, sharp curves, icy crossings or roads are all made safer and more navigable by the right grooming at the right time.

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