To all, I understand this may be a long read but give it a try!
It is my understanding many clubs in the area and all over the state has been getting questions and comments on the trails. Unfortunately some comments are not so nice and even threatening!
In the eve before this big storm and the recent lack of snow and warm weather we have seen even more!
First off due to the current trail conditions you have to think of this as being like our first snow. The ground is bare in many areas, water bars and areas with flowing water are open. We are looking at anywhere from 8”-20” of snow depending on which news you look at. I will use the highest amount for example. Even if we get 20” of snow it will need to be packed bringing it down to 10” or less depending on the type of snow it is i.e. wet, or powder. Add in any sleds getting out there before a groomer does can push snow off the trail leaving it less accessible for the drag. You could be closer to 6” at this point. At the end of the day that does not leave much on bare ground, open holes and running water. Once groomed the sled traffic will start to beat it down. A groomer operator needs to get out at the earliest point to start grooming the snow to make it rideable. Remember we are all part of “Clubs” which means we are or should all be part of this process in one way or another, whether it is trail work, brushing and cutting, building bridges, picking up supplies, maintaining club equipment or actually grooming! The list can go on and on! In most cases there is a small group of people that handle all of this for any given club! Stretching these people out thin. Remember these are all people you know, who have jobs and families. In the wake of a good snowstorm they have to clean their own driveways and walkways and help other family and friends. At the end of the day they throw in some time if they can!
The groomer operators spend many many hours grooming the trails, in many cases all night so the rest can ride a great trail in the morning. Sometimes even sacrificing a ride for themselves! There is also more to it than just pulling a drag! Believe it or not there is a science to it. The right temperature, it may be cold enough but is there snow to work with? The right speed of the groomer, many groomers are not any better on ice than any other vehicle can they work at the right speed for the conditions? The type of snow is it heavy or light, is it clogging the drag and falling out? Is there snow, do they have to try to build a trail to get over dirt or a hole? They have to cut corners back due to sled traffic; they have to form road crossings! Many times they have to hit a trail 2-3 times to take the bumps out. Sometimes trails are blocked by blow downs and they will need to get out and cut away the debris and remove it from the trail. Sometimes they have breakdowns in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere! Just because a trail is smooth when they are done does not mean it will last for than an hour. It has to be done right and have time to set up! Have you ever been the first to ride a fresh groomed trail in the morning and think “man this trail is mint and my sled handles like it is on rails”, and then noticed later in the day it is still in pretty good shape even with the traffic? That is because the groomer made a good trail the right way and it had time to set up!
The groomer operators are out all night doing this, sometimes multiple nights in a row so all the snowmobilers sleeping can get up in the morning and have great trails to ride. Above all, they do it because they want to! They want to be the ones who helped make the system and trails great. They want to know their snowmobiling family can get up in the morning and go for a great ride. They are Volunteers and doing what they can! At the end of their shift they are tired and need to get up in the morning to do what they need to or hopefully get out for a ride to feel the benefits of what they have done! Have you ever pulled an all-nighter doing anything after a day of work and gone riding? Hard to do when you’re that tired!
The thing about most groomer operators is they really want to be out there and as bad as you want to ride they want to run that groomer! It is disappointing when they can’t. They wait for the call of the trail master in hoping they will be going out, watching the temps and checking trail conditions to see if they are right from proper grooming! It is no different than riding, to have the best time you need the right conditions!
One last thing we hear all the time is “the club should do this”, or “the club should do that”! My question for all of you is “Who is the Club”? The response is easy, if you are a member of a club, any club then the “The Club” is you, and all its members. So when you ask that question remember the “Club” is not its own entity it is made up of all the members and we are all volunteers and put in time after our normal lives! So ask yourself this. Did you Volunteer, what did you do to help?