Snow groomers may not be on your brain yet, but we are gearing up for a busy fall of building cross country ski groomers and fat bike groomers. If you’re in the winter sports game, you’re going to want to order soon.
If you’re looking to add winter trails where you’re at, make sure you check with the right people.
How to Build Winter Trails
Before you groom, get permission from landowners. Even if you’re hoping to groom a trail that is open to the whole community, find out who owns the property. In some states, public trails are owned by specific organizations within the government, often the Department of Natural Resources. Your local DNR may have an application process for grooming and require other information about the use, safety precautions, and liability.
Another group to work with is your local trail association. Your local mountain bike or trail group likely has an agreement with either the state or the private landowner that controls the property. Trail associations provide more than just some people with rakes. Trails organizations are vital in maintaining positive relationships with landowners. Bandit trail work and changes, even positive ones like winter grooming, could possibly anger landowners and put your trail crew in a bad position. Work with them to make winter trails happen where you’re at.
Groomed Snow Trails
We coil write a whole handbook about how to successfully maintain a winter trail system for fat bikes and cross-country skiers. Our best advice is to know what you’re getting into.
Understand what sort of snowmobile you’ll be using and calculate how much you’ll need to spend on gas every week and what repairs you expect to make throughout the season. NMMBA, for example, always stockpiles parts starting in September.
Time is the biggest faster. No matter what sled or groomer you have, it can be very slow going to groom a fat bike trail. The volunteers from NMMBA use two snowmobiles to groom just over twenty miles of trails and it can take over six hours on some days. Weather conditions, snow conditions, and the terrain of your trail system could make a basic groom more or less difficult. Make sure you flag and mark your trail before the snow falls and always adjust trails where possible to make clearing trees and obstacles easier on a snowmobile.
If you have a lot of trails to groom, recruit a crew. Choose how often you’ll groom and ask volunteers what day of the week they are available. The more volunteers, the more days you’ll be able to offer trails users a groomed trail. Be smart with your time and the time of your volunteers, too, by checking the forecast and waiting to groom when it’s going to stop snowing. Otherwise, volunteers might have to start all over again.
Get the Right Winter Grooming Equipment
Get the groomer that suits your needs, but get the right snowmobile, too. Big, powerful long-track snowmobiles but have a lot of horsepower, but they’re very heavy and very difficult to lift when they get stuck. After investing heavily in big mountain-style sleds, many trail organizations are actually scaling down for smaller, more maneuverable sleds that are more nimble, lighter, and can still easily haul a hefty winter drag.
Winter tends to show up rather unexpectedly here in northern Michigan. Our seasons are famously unreliable and the calendar isn’t a reliable indicator of what to expect on any given day of the year. We’re getting ready to build plenty of our groomers. If you need help finding the right groomer, or just have questions, let us know.