Barbara is wondering…
“With being new to this, I have some newbie questions. I’ve seen references to grooming on your website, but am very curious as to how all that work is done. Which trails all get regularly groomed and trackset? Are they usually done on specific days of the week? What is the kind of machinery used for this? Really just curious what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ to make all these trails fun for us.”
The above photo will answer a few of your questions. That’s the Pisten-Bully in PLPP laying down corduroy and one ski track this past Friday. You can see the other tracksetter is lifted. They only put one track on Hydroline.
The trails in Banff and Lake Louise are maintained with snowmobiles pulling implements. PLPP grooms Mon – Fri, and usually does Mt Shark on Thursdays. From what I’ve seen this year, the Lake Louise crew seems to work all the time. Banff seems to be out working after a substantial snowfall.
The Canmore Nordic Centre grooms every day in the early morning with a Pisten-Bully. They use snowmobiles as well, mostly on the natural snow trails if the snow cover is thin.
Any tracksetting personnel reading this are welcome to elaborate, or correct my musings.
Wow, thank you Bob for posting this, and also everyone else for chiming in. I’ve bookmarked this to come back to. Those Pisten-Bully’s actually look pretty cool – just from an I-like-to-know-how-things-work standpoint :-). And from the responses it seems safe to conclude that trails are usually done for the weekend group – yay for us who need to work during the week.
I’ve just skied Moraine Lake Road once (on November 5) and was impressed with my first introduction to the tracks there. Been at PLPP twice now and wow – those tracs are sweet! Even today (went there for a lesson) it was great conditions – no ice or anything obnoxious like that. I’ll be back in PLPP next weekend, but then planning a bigger loop or day trip – maybe a big loop up Tyrwhitt, or Great Divide, or Cascade Fire Road. Looks like now with XC skiing an option for me, I’ll have loads more choices of places to explore.
We have access to a number of unmaintained trails but no grooming equipment. Any tips for creating good skier set tracks? Would dragging a weighted sled with some old skis set to the right width help or do you need heavier equipment?
This is one time when I can say having snowshoers walk on the trails is a good thing. You can snowshoe pack the trails and then have a few people ski the same line to create a fairly good rough track. The key to all good ski trails is good base prep. Ive seen people use oxen to groom trails with mixed results.
A tow behind sled or packing board would work as well of you have enough fit people to pull it. Some of these cross country baby chariots are set up to fit in the ski track you could add a bit more weight and use those as well.
To expand on Bob’s comments regarding grooming. A variety of equipment can be used but essentially it all does the same thing. The key is to build up a base firm and deep enough to support tracks and skiers. The bigger the equipment the deeper the base needed to groom without kicking up dirt or rocks. The deeper the new snow the more work it takes to set a track, you need to make grooming passes to knock the snow down then set a track. A trail like Elk Pass regularly takes four passes with the Pisten Bulley to lay down the exceptional tracks you get to ski on.
I can’t speak for PLPP when it comes to a schedule but usually by Christmas there is a set schedule that any of the Kananaskis Information Centers would be happy to tell you. Trails are usually groomed in two shifts one starting around 2 pm the next starting around midnight. This is to minimize any conflicts between skiers and equipment. Also as much as its great to ski in a freshly groomed track we like to have a minimum of 2 hours of set up time to make sure the tracks and groomed surface and firm enough to withstand the hundreds of skiers they will see.
In the Ribbon Creek area the bulk of the grooming is done from Tuesday- Friday. The most popular trails such as the Kananaskis Village and Ribbon Creek are done on Monday and again on Friday for the weekend crowd. Ocassionally if there is a significant Saturday night snowfall some of the more popular trails are re-done.
West Bragg Creek area for the most part is done by the GBTA a dedicated group of volunteers that get out on the trails when ever they can.
Without going into greater detail I hope this helps a little. To answer Peter’s question the reason we do this is because we love skiing our trails and others, but we really like it when people come out and ski all over the work we do.
To all the people involved in grooming and tracksetting a big THANK YOU! Without your hard work none of us could enjoy our favorite winter activity! I hope all of you get to enjoy your trails as much as we do!
Just to add to Barbara’s question – with respect to PLPP, in the past it seemed that no grooming ever happened on Saturday or Sunday, presumably due to skier safety and additional costs. This meant that after a snowfalls on Friday, the weekend skiing at PLPP could be less than ideal. However, last year, it seemed that quite often the grooming crew was out first thing Saturday morning, which resulted in some great skiing conditions on the weekends. Has there been a change in policy and/or budget, and can we look forward to seeing the same this year?
Another question for the tracksetting personnel perhaps.