Ski trail at International Falls, MN, on March 16, 2012

This past winter won’t go down as one of the better ones as far as conditions. We had that period in January where it thawed, rained, and the trails turned to ice. Thankfully, it was brief.

If you think we had some challenging conditions…I came across this forum for groomers and tracksetters(see map for locations) to discuss equipment and share news about snow conditions. It’s called SnowGroomingTalk.  We had already been skiing for two months when this was posted Worst start to the season ever

A few of the comments:

Dec 31, 2011: “I’ve been working at ski centers, or grooming own trails since 1989.  I’ve NEVER seen a season begin like this.

Jan 1, 2012: “We are having the second or third driest year EVER ON RECORD in Utah.  Mountain temps are in the mid-40’s this week, terrible, shallow mountain snow pack.  All the nordic areas below 8,000ft are closed, or marginal.  It’s heinous.”

Jan 1, 2012: “well here in Maine we’ve got nothing”

Jan 1, 2012: “Not much in West Central Wisconsin-had a couple inches early in Dec.  packed that, then it rained and wiped it out.  Nothing since then until New Years Eve night-a paltry inch, not enough to even think about packing.  Fat-Bike was out again today.  This has been one of the worst starts ever that I can remember.”

There are a couple groomers from Alberta, SledderGlen and Ole Uffda from Ft. Saskatchewan and Camrose giving some info on Alberta conditions, and I even came across a link to my blog from early November, as they were envious of our early snow.  The site is interesting to peruse and there are some nice photos, too, from when they had snow on the trails.    

Anyway, it’s important to maintain our perspective. We are really privileged and spoiled here.


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  1. Thanks Bob for the updates. as a traveling skier it was really helpful this season. No wasted trips for me this year! Have you thought about accepting reports from other areas around Alberta or BC?

    I would accept reports from anywhere, and we’ve had a few from far-flung places periodically. I think it works better, however, if you have someone local. For example, my blog covers southern Alberta. Someone based in Edmonton could start a similar blog for the north. -Bob

  2. I think we had another amazing year, in spite of a few rainy and icy condition days. We’ve been skiing since mid-October, starting with Frozen Thunder and we’re still skiing at the CNC!! Kudos to the all the tracksetters in K Country, Banff and Lake Louise. We are lucky, lucky people to live in this paradise.

  3. Amen to Bob’s statement, “We are really privileged and spoiled here”. Sometimes you have to leave home to realize how good you have it. At Masters World Cup in Oberwiesenthal, Germany, they got a ton of snow, along with Siberian temperatures, in January and early February. So the base was deep. But it thawed mid-Feb, and turned to mush. Practice days were awful; my klister did not work. Should have brought waxless skis. Night before first race (30 k classic), temperature finally dropped below freezing, and they were able to groom. But the tracks were never as deep and well-defined as they are at the Nordic Centre or PLPP, and “exotic” mixtures of klisters were required to get decent grip. Some said the grooming was the best that could be done under the conditions, others were less charitable. The “defenders” said they didn’t groom too much, so that the tracks would not become dangerously fast. Second event (10 k classic) was better, with some areas of the course glazed and fast, others “powdery”, yet others like shaved ice. For last event, (45 km classic) a moderate, wet blizzard pretty much obliterated most of the tracks by mid-race. Not fun. The championship itself, the setting, etc. was very enjoyable, the snow conditions not so much. Skaters likely had an easier time. Bottom line is that nowhere have I seen grooming so consistently good as at the Nordic Centre and PLPP. Sovereign Lakes in BC was perfect during MWC 2011, and many Europeans remarked how wonderful conditions were there, and at Canmore before the event. While this past season may not have been one of the better ones for locals, plenty of folks elsewhere would be happy to have it! … and it’s not over yet, if you’re flexible with your equipment, technique, and expectations.

  4. We had a bad year here in Okotoks too. We only packed a portion of the course two times and there was never enough base to put down track. Although the weather man kept forecasting snow, it just never arrived in enough quantity. Next year!

  5. Next time you are skiing on a 3″ base with a bit of grass sticking out remember that you are skiing and not biking in January like they were in the east. We have had years like that and I’m always grateful for “thin but skiable” base versus nothing at all. Like Bob said it’s all about perspective.

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