Great snowmobiling experience requires perfectly groomed trails. Perfectly groomed trails have a solid base, without any drifts, bumps, and holes. This process allows more people to enjoy snowmobiling without worry.
What Are Trail Groomers?
Snow groomers are those vehicles that are designed for the maintenance of snow. There are different types of snow groomers based on the field of application. They are those used in alpine ski slopes, ski and snowboard parks, cross country ski trails, and snowmobiling trails.
The major grooming types of equipment are grooming drag, tiller, and compact bars. A grooming tractor is used to provide sufficient power to pull these types of equipment over the snow. Some areas also use farm tractors or utility snowmobiles to pull drags.
Trail Grooming Equipment
Some of the manufacturers of these grooming types of equipment are:
- Tucker SnoCat
- Pisten Bully
- Camoplast Industrial
In the 1960s and 1970s, snowmobile clubs used spring beds and pipe drags to smooth the trails. Nowadays, they use multi-blade drags or single-blade drags.
Multi blade drags
Multi-blade drags use two or more cutting blades to fully remove moguls (large bumps). Drag width and drag length are two terms associated with drags.
Drag width: Drag width depends on the width of the trail to be leveled and the width of tracks on the tractor used for grooming. It would be better if the entire trail is groomed in a single pass. Hence 8 to 12 feet wide drags are commonly used. Narrower trails require the use of narrow drag widths.
Drag length: Drag length should be sufficient so that the trail is groomed more smoothly.
Features of multi blade drags
Frame: It is made of welded steel and provides a rigid base onto which other components are connected. The frame shouldn’t bend or twist during drag working or else it can lead to uneven drag cutting and compacting.
Side rails: They keep the snow that is being processed within the frame.
Spring Tripping Blades: If the blades are spring-loaded, this can make the trip out if they hit some buried objects in the snow and thereby protecting the tractor or the operator from any damage.
Cutting Blades: Cutting blades can be beveled or serrated. Serrated cutting blades help when cutting hard trails.
Compactor pan: It provides an evenly finished trail surface.
Vibrating pan: They aid in trail set up by increasing compression by hydraulically vibrating the rear pan.
Wheel assembly: They are usually mounted on the frame or at the rear of drags and controlled hydraulically to be raised or lowered. Some drags use drum rollers, which can also help in trail compression.
Single blade drags:
The difference between single and multi-blade drags is in the number of blades and their configuration. Other than that most of the components remains the same. They do not have side rails to keep snow confined within the frame. They are not effective in areas with heavy moguls.
It is hydraulically driven equipment, mounted on the rear end of the tractor. It can be used to break compacted snow and mix the snow. It usually works wells in moist snow than in dry powder snow. Also, in the areas that are heavily moguled, multiple passes may be required to create a smooth trail.
They are simple, lightweight, and short equipment connected to the rear of the tractor. They are mostly used for early-season trail preparation. They help in snow compaction.
Factors Affecting Grooming
Grooming is carried out considering the snow properties like:
- particle size
- the final snow hardness
Based on these properties of the snow and other inputs like snowmobile traffic volume, use patterns, wind, etc, the groomer will proceed to utilize the mechanics he needs to create a smooth trail.
Prior to grooming, the snow is examined to find out particle size. A particle size range of 0.5 mm to 4.5 mm is considered ideal. Melt–freeze changes may have resulted in large lumps, which may require a more aggressive grooming technique, such as tilling the snow. In some regions if the snow is too dry or if the particles of the snow are too small, single blade drags won’t help you. In such areas, multi-blade drags are used for grooming the trail. The groomer should have a good understanding of the area and other related aspects. Also, they should periodically check these factors.
How Trail Grooming Is Done?
The first step in trail grooming is the removal of moguls. The trail operator should have the idea of proper cutting depth. What a trail groomer does is that it cuts and mixes snow, thereby leveling as well as creating a layer of equal temperature snow within the snowpack. Now, the mixing reduces the size of the snow particle. It also creates particles with different shapes along with sizes, maximizing the number of new bonding sites within the snowpack. For bonding to occur, the snow temperature should be below freezing. Sufficient time should be given for the snow grains to refreeze and set up.
Post sunset is considered as the favorable time for grooming. This is because the snow surface absorbs solar radiation during the day which increases the surface temperature creating an equi-temperature condition, which can ease the trail setup procedures. Rapid response digital thermometers are commercially available for checking snow temperature.
How To Check If Grooming Is Done Properly?
Snow strength is determined based on the hardness of the snow. The operator can simply walk or stomp on the snow with his boots to give an indication of the compressive strength of the snow. When boots make a deep imprint, it means snow is soft. If the imprint on the snow is light, this indicates the strength is medium. When it is extremely difficult to leave an imprint on the snow, the trail is considered to be hard and grooming is done perfectly.
The process of grooming should be done with great care and the public should cooperate with the grooming schedule to bring the best results out.