What’s the Deal With Snow Grooming?
Whether you love to ski, snowboard, snowshoe or snowmobile, there seems to be enough of the white stuff to go around; but have you ever wondered how your favorite snowy trails came to be so smooth and packed? We traveled to Wasatch Mountain State Park to find out more.
When the sun goes down and everyone heads inside for warm blankets and hot cocoa, snow groomers across the country gear up for a job that not many understand, or even know about. Here at Wasatch Mountain State Park, Drew Patterson, is one of those helping to ensure those who have venture out in the snow have a safe and fun place to so.
Snow grooming, Patterson said, is done by driving large snowcats – which resemble a cross between a snow plow and a street sweeper – over the deep snow to help pack it down and smooth it out. This helps ensure snowshoers, skiers, and snowmobilers don’t sink down and get stuck or hurt.
“If you were to (walk) out here in the snow, you’d sink up to your knees right now,” Patterson said. “Where as the snowcat packs it down and creates a nice, firm base for the snowmobilers and a good track for them to get up on the mountain.”
Even though most of the grooming is completed during the nighttime hours, there are still dangers associated with driving these snowcats over the trails. Sometimes, Patterson said, he will come around a corner and be face to face with a snowmobiler on his way down the trail. Because of this, it is essential that both the riders and groomers keep an eye out for one-another.
“I’ve had someone come along and try and pass me and end up tipping into the track of the snowcat,” Patterson said. “If you come across and you see a nice groomed trail, just be aware there may be a snowcat in front of you making that trail nice.”
While not everyone sticks to the groomed trails, OHV Program Coordinator Chris Haller said, it is pretty easy for riders to feel the difference between them and a rough un-groomed area.
For those choosing to venture off the groomed trails, Haller said he advises the rider be even more familiar with the equipment they are using and how it handles. It is also important, he said, to not let your ego get in the way and ride within your abilities.
When riding snowmobiles off-trail, Haller said, it is also a good idea to ensure the snow is deep enough to ride on.
“About 18-24 inches is a good and acceptable depth,” He said. “You want to be familiar with the terrain underneath and (ensure) no vegetation is exposed. If you hit a rock, it could ruin your day.”
Grooming reports are readily available for anyone who wants to know the current conditions at their favorite trails across the state. You can access these by visiting the Snow Utah Website and checking on the grooming reports. These reports are usually updated weekly, so check weather conditions and grooming reports in advance before heading out on the trail.