Grooming 101

For those of you new to the world of XC, and my short forms and slang, here is a basic guide to grooming, in the hope that you can better understand my emails and get the great skiing MM offers.

Our Grooming Machines

MMNSC has two grooming devices: the Ginzu and the Bombardier.

The Bomber is the heavy-duty deluxe grooming machine, just like the downhill ski areas, and creates two awesome tracks and a beautiful corduroy skate lane, totaling 17’ wide. It also needs a fair bit of snow as it renovates the snow as it goes. If there is not enough snow, this digs up dirt and rocks. Once we have a good base, it is not a problem.

The Ginzu is a device that is towed behind a snowmobile. It lays down about 8 feet of corduroy with the option of one track. (To get two tracks you have to do two passes.) It does not have the weight of the big machine and so is not good with lots of snow as it cannot pack it hard enough. The Ginzu shines in low snow, early season and for tiddling up the skate lane. The Ginzu Master is really good at creating a good skate lane in marginal conditions. Track is trickier in low snow as it is difficult to lay track exactly over previous tracks. When we are not getting regular snowfalls, the ginzu may be used to tidy up the most used trails.


So does it matter to you, the happy skier? Maybe not. The Queen of Corduroy and I do have a soft spot for the perfect big machine laid track. Soft spot is an understatement. Let’s just call it what it is: an obsession.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.  When do the guys groom?

A.  We are super lucky as our groomers are not scheduled, but rather react to weather conditions.

  • If it is snowing, they won’t groom. Nothing is worse than sitting in the groomer for 4 or 5 hours and returning to the shed to see the snow start up again ready to bury all your hard work. Sometimes, if there is a big storm in the forecast, they will go out to get some packing done.
  • If it is too cold, no grooming. The precious Bomber is an elder machine and they try to treat it gently.
  • If it is too warm, the snow just balls up and makes a lumpy, bumpy track and skate lane, in other words, grooming wet or warm is impossible.

You can see why we look for Goldilocks conditions! Not too hot. Not too cold.

Q.  What about the parking lot?

A.  If we have just had a large snowfall, the parking lot may not be plowed. We are on the list to be plowed and have to wait our turn. We used to use the Bomber and it was a waste of groomer time and hard on the machine.

Q.  Can I ski while they are grooming?

A.  Yes. Chances are you won’t even see the groomer. But it is best to stay off the fresh corduroy of the skate lane for a couple of hours at least. We don’t suggest following the groomer during the grooming process as you will find you ski faster than the groomer.

Q.  What if I meet the groomer?

A.  If you hear the groomer coming, you have 2 choices.

  1. Turn around and ski at your normal speed, you will still be ahead of the groomer. Turn off at the first junction and hope that you made the right guess to avoid the route the groomer is taking. He is not going to change his grooming plan, so may follow you.
  2. Step off the set track. Way off. Into the soft snow. Your boots will fill up. The groomer will not stop. (See bumps below)

Q.  How can the skiers help keep the trails in good condition?

  • The set tracks are ready to ski on right away – as in classic technique. If you are skiing classic, stay in the track. Do not go down the middle of the skate lane except on hills to snowplow down (/\) or herringbone up (\/). 
  • The skate lane is often soft for a few hours. If you are digging in to a punky skate lane, choose another trail or change to classic.
  • If you ski with a big dog, give the trails a few hours to set up if you can. Everyone expects divots on the dog trails, that is why we have dog trails, but a large dog can really tear up a newly set track.
  • If you have to walk down a hill to be safe, walk on the outside of the classic track if possible. If that is too soft, stay to the side of skate lane.
  • People out for a walk can use the snowshoe trail. The groomed tracks are not for walkers.

Q.  How long does it take to groom?

A.  During a 4-5 hour grooming session the guys hope to get in the range of 10-12kms done. Roughly 3kms per hour. (The machine can go a bit faster, but track quality will suffer.) And, if there are trees down or tricky snow conditions, this can change to more like 2 kms per hour. At this rate it would take 10-15 hours, or 3 sessions of grooming time to fully groom the trail network.

Q.  How long until you re-groom if it doesn’t snow?

A.  It all depends on weather and wear. If the trails are hard packed they can last a week or longer. If the trails start soft and get divots from skaters or dogs, they have to be re-groomed sooner. This means the guys don’t get out to the outer areas as often.

Q.  What about rain?

A.   The groomers avoid rain or really wet snow. Rain on fresh grooming will freeze to form an icy surface that no one is happy with. Rain on ungroomed snow will freeze and often dries out and is very groomable. If there is a rain event in the forecast, the plan usually is to leave a “snow-bank” of ungroomed trails to work on after the rain.

Q.  What days do you groom what trails?

A.  Some clubs do operate this way, but we do not. We groom what makes sense that day, and also try to keep the most used trails tuned up. The Dogs and Mainline to Sawdust are the most frequently groomed with Possum Playground coming in third. See our trail report page for further details.

Q.  When will you groom Trespass? Around the Lake – ski route?

A.  Trespass and Around the Lake are both great trails with steeper hills. Because of this, they need more snow than other places. They both have brushy spots and are prone to blowdown. All of which means it takes more grooming time and is also harder on the machine. When we get enough snow the guys will pack these trails and then after that they will put them in to the grooming cycle. It is usually January before the hilly trails are good. Gives you time to get in shape!

Q.  Can I ski an ungroomed trail?

A.  Of course. 3-5 cm of bunny fluff on top of old grooming makes for a very pleasant adventure. We have Trekkers and Fluff Bunnies who love these conditions on the hilly trails. Be aware that a not-groomed-this-season snowpack that has not settled can be dangerous in terms of “bottoming out” as in hitting rocks under the snow. There may be blowdown. Use caution on hills especially.

Grooming Problems

If you are out and notice the track is not great, blame the snow, not the grooming device or groomer guy.

Here is why.

Snow Condition Trail Outcome
Low snow rock, dirt, twigs especially on hills
Too much snow soft or punchy track and soft skate lane (After a snowfall the skate lane will likely be soft, even with the big machine. This means if you are flying down the track and step into the skate lane to snowplow your skis may sink in and become hard to control.) Classic skiing may be the best option after a heavy snowfall, but watch the hills if you are out of track. In most cases, after a few hours the skate lane will harden, although this all depends on weather conditions, snow humidity and depth of snowfall.
Icy old snow chunky hunks visible in the grooming, hard to get a really smooth track
Too warm or wet snow balls up behind the machine and leaves a ridge down the corduroy and forms a nasty layer of solid ice.
Bumps or snow berms in the track every time the groomer has to stop and restart, it leaves a bit of a bump or berm. When there is a tree across the trail the operator has to stop the machine, cut the tree, get rid of the debris and then restart grooming.
  • Some of our junctions also create tricky bumps. Sometimes these are very noticeable and last for a few days until the next grooming. Two junctions to watch for are where you come off The Hump heading to Sawdust Loop on Mainline, and at the bottom of the Moose Meadows hill. Some corners are not banked well for skiers. The trail planners don’t always think of how the grooming works. The groomers know about these spots and they do their best to keep them safe, but there is only so much they can do.
  • Bottom line: always ski under control.

And thank the Groomer Guys!