We’ve been working hard this fall to get ready for the winter season while also juggling the challenges and curveballs 2020 has thrown at all of us.
We are asking trail users to please have patience and empathy with staff and volunteers. With the writing of this update, the Trails & Pathways staff of two is navigating a potential exposure to COVID-19. As a two person organization, we work our ski wax off to provide the winter trail system to this community but understand that at any given time, we may have to cease operations if one or both of us need to focus on our health and the health of our families.
Recognize that this may be the case for any business or non-profit in Teton Valley moving forward into the new year. We ask all of you to please follow the advice that we have been hearing for months. Recreate responsibly, give each other plenty of space, practice good trail etiquette and observe health recommendations so that we can and will pull through this together as a community.
When will Trails and Pathways start grooming?
Early season snow is exciting for all of us. Based on our 18 years of experience we anticipate that we will be able to have one or two venues open by Thanksgiving. In the past we have deployed resources early, only to have the snow melt out. That is not a scenario we want to repeat. The road into Teton Canyon always closes to vehicle traffic the Friday before Thanksgiving and as soon as that gate closes, we will begin compacting snow. Opening of other Winter Trails will be dependent on precipitation and daily temperatures and the health of our trained operators and equipment. The best place to find the most up to date information will be on our grooming report.
How often to you groom?
We groom multiple Nordic trails every day all winter long when conditions permit. Singletrack grooming for fat bikes is dependent on the amount of new snow, air and snow temperatures, amount of trail use, and the depth and quality of the base. When we receive consistent new snow we will groom as often as we can.
We know that more experienced skiers tend to like hard fast conditions, less experienced skiers prefer to have slower softer conditions, and classic skiers want firm hard tracks. Our grooming staff and volunteers try to provide the best possible compromise so that everyone using the trail has an enjoyable experience. Our groomers update conditions on our Grooming Report. You will be able to find the schedule on tvtap.org and in our Nordic Brochure available next month.
What time of day do you groom?
Usually in the early morning or late at night for Nordic Trails. Having grooming equipment on the trail at the same time as skiers leads to safety concerns. We also like the trail to have a chance to set up before the skiers begin using it. Singletrack trails need to be much more firm than Nordic trails to support fat bike use. We groom singletrack late at night with specialized equipment to allow the most time possible for the trails to set up between grooming and the first visitor.
How long does it take for the trail to set up after grooming?
Generally it takes from two to four hours, but ultimately depends on weather and temperature conditions.
Why don’t you set classic tracks during every groom?
Once we have established an adequate base, we reset the tracks as often as makes sense with the equipment we have. In order to set good tracks the base must be loosened up to the depth of the tracks. In conditions where we have not received new snow in a while and the base has become hard packed it is difficult or impossible to loosen or renovate the old track deep enough. In this case we leave the existing tracks and resurface the skate lane only deep enough to remove most marks in the base. Each time we grind the base it changes the characteristics of the snow and eventually the snow will become so hard packed that this grinding will only break it up into chunks. Skiing on these chunks is something most skiers prefer not to do. Ideal conditions to set classic tracks would be after a 2 to 4 inch snowfall or on snow that is still more or less in its natural state and has not thawed and refrozen. While, as groomers, we would prefer to reset classic tracks during every groom we must deal with what Mother Nature gives us and try to provide the best possible conditions even though it may involve some compromising.
What equipment do you use?
We groom with a fleet of six snowmobiles, one tracked ATV, six rollers, four Ginzugroomers, two Nordic compaction drags, three singletrack rollers, two singletrack drags and one V-plow (whew!). The groomers make the decision on what to use after they arrive at the trailhead and evaluate the existing trail conditions.
Who maintains the grooming equipment?
Trails and Pathways Program Director maintains and modifies the equipment. Equipment dealers or specialized repair facilities handle serious repairs to the snowmobiles when necessary. Approximately one hour of equipment maintenance is required for every eight hours spent grooming. This does not include the trail preparation work that is done in the summer and fall to prepare the trail for the winter season.
What causes most damage to groomed trails?
Footprints – whether they are from wild animals, dog paws, snowshoes or boots. Most of our trails are groomed for multi-use recreation and we want people to go enjoy them, so we groom often to fix the damaged trails. Winter trail maintenance is like sharpening a knife. If you sharpen the knife blade often, it’s easier to maintain a quality edge. If you let the knife blade get dull, then it is going to take a lot more work to get it back to sharp. We like our trails to stay sharp!
In second place for trail damage is dog poop. There. We said it. Nobody likes brown snow. Please pick up after your dog so that someone else doesn't have to take it off their shoe, ski, boot, pole or any other item where dog doo doesn't belong.
Thanks for rallying with us to build Teton Valley’s finest Winter Trails. We are working hard so you can play hard. The purchase of Trail Support Vehicle stickers and Puppy Permits support our operations and help keep trails open, available and in sharp condition for your skis and fat bikes. You can also support us by paying as you go at the trailhead.