A Groomer's Perspective
It's what we all want, smooth trails! The trouble is, more often than not we have to settle for something less. I can't count the times I've heard, " I pay my registration money and I expect smooth trails every time I ride". Some people think that if you throw enough money at a problem you can fix anything. While I have yet to test that theory, I am reasonably sure it's not true.
In order to understand something about grooming, you have to understand something about snow mechanics. We all know that when it falls it's good, but there is more to it than that. In Southeastern Idaho early snows are typically light and fluffy. You know the words " theres no bottom in it". Snowflakes pile on top of one another until we have the desired footage. Usually the first thing we hear is "When are you going to start grooming?". By the time we hear this question the trails are already rough. There will never be a time when we beat the die-hard early season riders. You know the ones. They're gathered at the sled dealers, getting in some early season repairs. Our general rule of thumb is one foot at the trailhead is a minimum. If your trail is not on a road, you need even more than that. With groomers costing as much as 150K and repair parts enough to bankrupt a small third world country, abuse is just not an option. Unless the snow comes all at once, so we can get started together, we play the waiting game. You wait for the grooming to begin and we wait for enough snow depth.
The general idea in grooming is to take snow from the high spots and put it in the low spots, compact the snow by breaking off the little arms on the snowflakes and then smooth it out so it looks something like the landing field at the local airport.
If you have ever taken an avalanche class, you learned something about bonding.
You learned temperature and water content have a great impact on the snow stability. It is the same thing with snowmobile trails. Sometimes the snow bonds together and the trail will last longer. At other times even though the trail looks good it just won't last. Just a few snowmobiles will greatly affect how it looks and feels. You remember the snowball fights when you were young. Sometimes you could make a snowball that would pack firm and hard. At other times the snow wouldn't hold together long enough to hit your neighbor in the back of the head.
In the same trail we also find hard spots ( places where the sun has melted the snow and it then freezes at night) and soft spots where the trail hasn't been affected by the sun as much. These areas groom differently. The bottom line is that on the same trail you may encounter sections that feel different. Smooth stretches and stretches that are not so smooth. These sections become more noticeable as spring progresses.
Late season we find snow that gets warm during the day, almost slush, and then does not freeze at night, warm temperatures and high water content. These conditions are especially difficult. You can't do much with a dozer blade to take care of the moguls because the snow won't feather out after you cut it off (remember taking the highs and putting them into the lows.) So, the only thing to do is throw it to the side, severely reducing the snow pack. These warm temperatures also cause moguls to form with minimal sled traffic.
A snowmobiler friend of mine once said, "Sometimes snowmobilers are their own worst enemy". I've thought about that a lot. Moguls seem to form faster around corners where sledders slow down to make the corners. Before you jump to conclusions, I didn't say you shouldn't slow down around corners. The vibration of your snowmobile as you slow down to take a corner pounds the snow, starting the mogul to form faster. As sled traffic comes and goes you will almost always find moguls on the corners when other portions of the trail are still smooth. That is an indication of how we ride and not just the number of riders that impact the trail. The solution would be to ride slower and with a more even throttle. I know that's not an option!
In order for a trail to attain its maximum durability given the snow conditions, the trail needs "setup time". After you break the little arms off the snowflakes and compact the pieces together you need time for the pieces to bond together. Depending on the temperature, that time ranges from four to eight hours. That's why most grooming is done at night. Colder temperatures and set up time.
When you cut the highs and put them into the lows, the density factor is different for the two areas. The remaining portion of the high is still hard and dense, while the snow that has been broken off and deposited in the low area is softer and needs that setup time to bond together to make a firm hard trail. Lately however we find snowmobilers still riding at two a.m. It is not uncommon for them to then follow the groomer for miles eliminating the setup time.
How about the hammer down starts. You know the ones where your track
cuts down into the trail six inches leaving a mound of snow and a rut.
Along time age Abe Lincoln once said, "A nation divided against its self cannot stand." And so it goes for snowmobiling. We have sledders who won't join ISSA to help fight the fight to keep snowmobiling accessible to everyone and we have sledders who won't register cause its just too much money! And by the way, when are they going to start grooming?
| Home | Site Map |
Copyright © 1999-2016 Bergstrom Skegs, Inc.
All rights reserved.