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What is good grooming?

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 

I know I know....it is  THIS

 

 

 

not THIS

 

 

But really, my local hill now has "Best Grooming in the West" on their front page, and it got me to thinking about what IS "good grooming?" I realize that many of you powder only gods/goddesses are right now going....

 

 

WHAT?!?! YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT..

 

 

But the same local hill is also pretty proud of their million dollar investment in new grooming equipment, and at that price I would assume the equipment sales folks are touting more than...."This one is REALLY bright red!" or "Hey! This one goes to ......."

 

 

Is there some golden ridge height to spacing ratio? Does is vary for snow consistency? Is there a preferred ridge shape? Or is it pretty much groomed vs not groomed period?

 

What IS good grooming?

post #2 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alveolus View Post

groomed vs not groomed period?

This pretty much. Then again I can count single handed on the times I've skied on fresh corduroy, since they tend to be gone in minutes after the legion of boarders waiting at the top for the rope to open only to plow down and scrape everything down to icy hard pack. So for me the only difference is flat vs not flat.
post #3 of 46

I love this topic.  icon14.gif

 

Grooming may be the red-haired stepchild as far as this forum is concerned.  Personally, I love good groomed runs and I ski them often (not that there's anything wrong with that).  Smooth and consistent and fast.  I think feathering the edges from one pass to the next is one key to really excellent grooming.   

 

The best I've experienced other than the outstanding grooming we have here at Jackson Hole (shameless plug) is at Snowbasin in Utah.  Just outstanding.

 

And since I'm apparently in the mood to post videos today, I'll re-post this one.  It involved pretty good grooming...

 

post #4 of 46

Good is a ya know it when ya ski it.

 

Bad can be seen from far away.

post #5 of 46

If the majority of the mountain is groomed I would say that constitutes good grooming.

post #6 of 46

I ain't afraid............of the groomers.

post #7 of 46

I'm curious to see what responses this topic brings. I was literally sitting here about three hours ago contemplating researching and writing an article for the site about the whole grooming process, this thread may help me do that.

 

I remember one of the first great threads I ever read when I stumbled across this site was essentially a Trip Report by a grooming operator about his average night. You can view it here, although unfortunately all the pictures are gone frown.gif That's why we now import foreign links for images so gems like that aren't destroyed. The OP on that thread hasn't logged in in almost two years, but I shot him a PM and hopefully he'll pop in with some insights. 

post #8 of 46

What makes good grooming?

 

Well generally:

 

  • "Half cuts" are great when done...bascially each pass, overlaps the last pass, by "half".  This creates a smooth as carpet with no ridglines at all.
  • Grading - good grooming, basically cuts the peaks off, and fills in the holes, and doesnt hit dirt ever.....this is easier said then done, and most operators just follow the terrain, and some screw up and rip dirt...not good, because the dirt is now in the snow, so it cant be fixed really. 
  • time of night - when the grooming is done makes a huge difference in what you get.  Better skiers prefer the snow to be groomed immediatley after skiing closes as the snow is "groomed" then it has all night to "set", this creates a hard fast surface.  "Skidders" (read most people), prefer the grooming to be done as late at night as possible, after the snow is set (so the groomer rips it up just before morning, and no time to reset)...this ensures the snow is still really soft first thing the next morning...however, the snow often gets "ball bearings" all over the place (which suck) and then the soft snow gets scrapped off to hard snow underneith very quickly and leaves little piles of soft crap everywhere....
  • Total areas covered
post #9 of 46

Good grooming is early morning when you lay down a line without worring of what is going to be under feet the next turn or two. (big ridges, cookies and and the patches of hard snow under one inch of sugar( some call hard snow ice when its really just hard snow)).

 

Hank

post #10 of 46

Good grooming is also the choice to leave some areas more natural, and preferably on the same run.  As mentioned above Strawberry in Snowbasin is a good example.  The Canyons over at the Sun Peaks lift is another good example; natural, bumps, smooth groomed all off 1 lift (or even one run).  

 

Variety is a requirement of good too.

post #11 of 46

I really wouldn't know what a "good grooming" is...they are usually destroyed by the time I make it out to the hill.

post #12 of 46
I don't see why all resorts don't leave an ungroomed section on the sides, assuming its a wide trail. At least don't groom it every day.
post #13 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by WC68 View Post

I don't see why all resorts don't leave an ungroomed section on the sides, assuming its a wide trail. At least don't groom it every day.


I think its because no one would ski there.

 

 

 

 

If you look at how busy the average mogul run is vs. the average groomed run, you will see my point.

post #14 of 46

The groomers in the Rockies need to take lessons from the guys back east.  In the east, they can turn the ice from a thaw/rain/freeze cycle into really skiable snow in a couple of days.  In the Rockies they seem to be able to turn a nice 6-8 inch snowfall into hardpack in a day or so.  I never cease to be amazed at this.

post #15 of 46

Snow that has been skied on all day is hard.  Grooming the top of it will wear off as soon as the snowboarders and skis slide down it.  So the snow has to be push/plowed to loosen it up before it is groomed to make grooming work.  That is hard to do on steeper slopes, often times requiring the use of a winch.  Some machines are big and powerful and do a better job grooming snow.  Everyone thinks Deer valley has the best groomed snow, but that just isn't true when you have some resorts buying multiple Prinoth Beasts and delivering a better product that lasts longer (doesn't turn ice hard as fast).  Here is a promo for the Beast, one bad-ass machine:

 

post #16 of 46
I thought we had some bad ridge lines out at 7 Springs, PA. Friday, so they apparently decided they would not repeat their mistake Sat. So they made a ton of snow, I think with a minimum of air and just left it ungrommed. Skiers were cork screwing out of their bindings on their first runs. Thick gloppy snot snow for sure. Anyway makes for some interesting challenges . I don't claim to know much about snowmaking but I know bad snow when I see it, in fact you can se it as you ride up the lift, you can see the yellow texture in the snow.
post #17 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skidude72 View Post

What makes good grooming?

 

Well generally:

 

  • "Half cuts" are great when done...bascially each pass, overlaps the last pass, by "half".  This creates a smooth as carpet with no ridglines at all.
  • Grading - good grooming, basically cuts the peaks off, and fills in the holes, and doesnt hit dirt ever.....this is easier said then done, and most operators just follow the terrain, and some screw up and rip dirt...not good, because the dirt is now in the snow, so it cant be fixed really. 
  • time of night - when the grooming is done makes a huge difference in what you get.  Better skiers prefer the snow to be groomed immediatley after skiing closes as the snow is "groomed" then it has all night to "set", this creates a hard fast surface.  "Skidders" (read most people), prefer the grooming to be done as late at night as possible, after the snow is set (so the groomer rips it up just before morning, and no time to reset)...this ensures the snow is still really soft first thing the next morning...however, the snow often gets "ball bearings" all over the place (which suck) and then the soft snow gets scrapped off to hard snow underneith very quickly and leaves little piles of soft crap everywhere....
  • Total areas covered


rumor is that Squaw p.o.'d all the old timers and they mostly quit. now there are rocks plowed up into much of the snow. must be what you're referring to. sucks majorly. Sibo-face is destroyed.

post #18 of 46

How do those giant balls of snow/ice develop? I see those all the time at my racing mountain, Thunder Ridge. It's really bad the job they do there.

post #19 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by skiking4 View Post

How do those giant balls of snow/ice develop? I see those all the time at my racing mountain, Thunder Ridge. It's really bad the job they do there.


I've got this one. I checked it out once when we had a bad rash of it. The ridges are frozen or partially frozen. The ski pops the ridge of its base and chops it into rods several inches long. then the ski shatters the rods into short sections which ball up when hit over and over.  I took my Red Sleds out on it once and I couldn't even tell the balls were there. On new skis however....

post #20 of 46

One grooming pass is too many, five passes is not enough?

 

Bumpfreaq nailed it in a similar thread when he claimed that grooming hardens the snow and when the bumps reform they are shaped quite differently and are less fun to ski (at least that's how I read it). This is exactly what happens on Granite Chief which gets groomed occasionally and skied a lot - the grooming makes a great hill horrible. Nearby Shirley Lake seems to get the most attention by the grooming crew and they do a reasonable job of presenting fun snow conditions there. Red Dog gets a once over lightly every day and consistently has the worst boilerplate on the mountain. Perhaps good grooming is defined by how much effort goes into the grooming.

 

Big Bear has the best groomed snow I have skied. They have a difficult task as the Socal weather is typically warm busy days (with lots of snowboards to up the scrape factor) and freezing nights. They have a big crew which works a long shift. The trace of manmade snow they make most nights gives them something to work with. They appear to till the snow before they groom it. They concentrate on the major trails and make them right.

 

Squaw might have the worst grooming. The mountain is too big. The required groomed areas are long access trails (Mountain run and the link from the resort to the base) or huge (the beginner area up top). The only good grooming is Shirley lake - and it is not up to Big Bear's standard. If Davluri is right and all the old timer groomers quit, well it can't hurt. Maybe the new people will leave half of Red Dog in bumps for us and make a couple more passes to make an acceptable trail down next to the bumps.

 

I want to make a grooming machine that lays down a zipper line of soft bumps!

 

Eric

post #21 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by JimH View Post

The groomers in the Rockies need to take lessons from the guys back east.  In the east, they can turn the ice from a thaw/rain/freeze cycle into really skiable snow in a couple of days.  In the Rockies they seem to be able to turn a nice 6-8 inch snowfall into hardpack in a day or so.  I never cease to be amazed at this.

I'd echo this, along with the comment about too many passes and too much grooming.  My experience at Deer Valley (admittedly only a couple of days) is that they work so hard to support their claims of "best/most groomers in Utah" that snow there gets over-processed and hard-packed.  I was in PC last year and skied Brighton, PCMR, Snowbasin, and DV -- all within the same weather/snow window unfortunately.  Because of lack of new snow, we spent a lot of time on groomed runs.  Without doubt, the WORST groomer conditions were at DV.

post #22 of 46

I agree with Bob Peters, this is a fun topic, and I do enjoy slicing up some nice fresh corduroy now and then but really....what is good grooming?  It is a contradiction in terms =)

post #23 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skidude72 View PostI think its because no one would ski there.  If you look at how busy the average mogul run is vs. the average groomed run, you will see my point.

 

Well not always true.   A wide groomed run away from any lifts with a narrow 2 or 3 fall line width of moguls on one side is indeed not likely to see many skiers.   But the same situation below or next to advanced lifts where lifts riders can watch skiers below will certainly draw any comptetant mogul skiers which are often some hard core skiers who actually work at resorts as well as locals.   For a long time my speculation has been that resort managements since the early 90s with the rise of snowboarding and all mountain skis, have increasingly generally removed mogul fields in near visual view of advanced lifts by grooming.  

 

Why?  No doubt there have always been a lot of mogul dislikers of otherwise accomplished skiers especially those running resorts, that simply have never had good skills in bumps.  Each time some smooth bump skier skis so below them, it only reminds them of their own inadequacies.  Not only do some resorts groom away all moguls in visual sight of lifts but also especially mow down any moguls on lower gradient runouts lest it allow some intermediate skiers to actually have a place to practice and learn how to ski them.  Ironically there will ALWAYs be some moguls at resorts because it is one of the only products we skiers actually create simply by turning whether some don't like them or not.  There needs to be a reasonable considerate balance.

post #24 of 46

I have always enjoyed skiing groomed runs, especially steep groomed runs.  That said, I also enjoy a list of other conditions at resorts off groomed runs.   Any discussion of good grooming needs to understand that there is a wide range of snow conditions grooming snow cats work on and the resulting potential finished quality of a slope is a combination of whatever snow plus what the grooming created.   And generally the result will be better with working with fresher colder snow than old many times groomed over snow especially snow that has metamorphosized through freeze thaw cycles.   Way back in the 80s Squaw Valley provided excellent examples of poor grooming on most of its advanced slopes while next door Alpine Meadows showed how to do it well.   So indeed from the earliest days we skiers have been able to recognize a good product.   All major resorts eventually figured out how to do that well so for the last couple decades poor grooming has been extinct.   But then again even among good grooming there can always be better.

 

What really bothers this person which is a product of grooming, are steep hard pack slabs.   I am no grooming knowledgeable person, so it would be useful for a grooming cat operator to actually respond.   Yeah steep winch groomed slopes with those long flat firm hard pack slabs.  The end result can certainly be worse than if such slopes had never been groomed.    Nature can do the same things at times when a smooth natural steep slope goes through thaw then freeze cycles and or strong wind packs a slope then thaws a little and freezes.   Other than the few on downhill boards or ice skates, who wants to ski on a flat smooth hard pack slab of say 200 steep feet vertical?   Even most advanced skiers are quick to gingerly traverse slicing across such slopes to other more management terrain.  Yikes most of us hate such useless spots.   So WHY and HOW do such slabs occur, and what can resorts do to fix them?

post #25 of 46

It probably is not an anomaly that the growth of skiing and grooming equipment seem to run very parallel to each other.  Consider that in the early 60's a grooming was a patrolman manually pulling a roller, a blade, or a chain-link down a run.  Some of that was BAD grooming.  Imagine what your home mountain would look like without grooming after a 2 week drought.  

 

Now I Love natural snow as much as any other born again ski bum, but having skied both, this way is definitely better.

 

In 50 years that is a really big leap forward in mountain science. 

post #26 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by jzmtl View Post


This pretty much. Then again I can count single handed on the times I've skied on fresh corduroy, since they tend to be gone in minutes after the legion of boarders waiting at the top for the rope to open only to plow down and scrape everything down to icy hard pack. So for me the only difference is flat vs not flat.

nonono2.gif

post #27 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by skiking4 View Post

How do those giant balls of snow/ice develop? I see those all the time at my racing mountain, Thunder Ridge. It's really bad the job they do there.

 

My understanding is....it occours when they groom AFTER the snow has "set"...ie too late at night...sorta same princple as what davluri mentioned, but instead of just a ski doing it...its the groomer.  So the snow is set (ie stuck together), it gets ripped up into big chunks by the groomer blade, then broken into smaller chunks by the tracks, and then smaller chunks again by the tiller...but the tiller is only 1 to 1.5inch spacing or so, ...so the chunks only get down to about 1inch before being spit out that back in the hundreds of thousands of "nerd balls".

post #28 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by eleeski View Post

One grooming pass is too many, five passes is not enough?

 

Bumpfreaq nailed it in a similar thread when he claimed that grooming hardens the snow and when the bumps reform they are shaped quite differently and are less fun to ski (at least that's how I read it). This is exactly what happens on Granite Chief which gets groomed occasionally and skied a lot - the grooming makes a great hill horrible. Nearby Shirley Lake seems to get the most attention by the grooming crew and they do a reasonable job of presenting fun snow conditions there. Red Dog gets a once over lightly every day and consistently has the worst boilerplate on the mountain. Perhaps good grooming is defined by how much effort goes into the grooming.

 

I want to make a grooming machine that lays down a zipper line of soft bumps!

 

Eric

 

Not really...this is a big issue, but its not the groomer that causes the problem, its the skiers that follow.  We have this issue at WB, generally when bumps form on steeper runs after a powder day or what have you, the runs are only skied by better skiers, so the resulting moguls have a good shape, and rythm. 

 

When you groom, you get all kinds of people, most "skid, slam, stop" and ski with no rythm at all...this creates really crappy moguls with steep faces, scrapped off sections inbetween, deep troughs etc.....

Quote:
Originally Posted by dave_SSS View Post


What really bothers this person which is a product of grooming, are steep hard pack slabs.   I am no grooming knowledgeable person, so it would be useful for a grooming cat operator to actually respond.   Yeah steep winch groomed slopes with those long flat firm hard pack slabs.  The end result can certainly be worse than if such slopes had never been groomed.    Nature can do the same things at times when a smooth natural steep slope goes through thaw then freeze cycles and or strong wind packs a slope then thaws a little and freezes.   Other than the few on downhill boards or ice skates, who wants to ski on a flat smooth hard pack slab of say 200 steep feet vertical?   Even most advanced skiers are quick to gingerly traverse slicing across such slopes to other more management terrain.  Yikes most of us hate such useless spots.   So WHY and HOW do such slabs occur, and what can resorts do to fix them?

 

See above....same issue.  The issue is not the grooming, its the people that scrape it down after....further, its harder for a groomer to get "UP" them, for the obvious reasons, so they cant run the blade as deep to break things up as much as a shallower slope.  Yes they can groom "down", but this inevitably leads to a rocky top part of the run....

post #29 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by oldgoat View Post

nonono2.gif

It's just what I've observed, didn't realize facts are now taboo, would you like photo proof?
post #30 of 46

I may be wrong but here is what I am guessing is going on with the hard pack slabs on steeps given no new snow.  After a dump of snow, a steep run is winch groomed.  As Skidude72 wrote, "good grooming, basically cuts the peaks off, and fills in the holes, and doesnt hit dirt ever".   Each day skiers ski on such a slope, moving around and compressing the surface snow, while sun, temperature, wind also effect it.  Generally due to gravity, snow is pushed down a run.   Each additional day the result is less ideal than the first day of grooming after a dump of cold fresh snow.  The groomers cannot simply groom the results of a day's skiing else the top areas, knobs, and terrain knees would soon dig down to bare earth. 

 

So one of the first processes must be that they move the pushed down snow back up the hill and fill in all the hollows while making sure the thin areas receive enough snow to keep ski edges above the ground surfaces.  Each grooming person probably has good experience knowing where to push snow around to even it out.  Each grooming cat has a limit to how deep they can dig down in snow then grind up the results.   The highest steepest areas are likely to receive the thinnest pushed back up snow simply due to mechanical leverage.   Additionally steep hard pack slabs are due to friction and greater ski/board edge pressures on steeper terrain, least likely to withstand the edging carving the groomed snow off.  So snow that had been moved up, in those areas is most rapidly skied off to the smooth firmer base.   In most cases the cat does not rototill up any snow at all in the steep slab areas but merely pushes up loose and ground up snow from below and then evenly smooths it out on the surface.   So we skiers beyond the first few early bird skiers each day end up skiing the same steep slab surfaces day after day after day.

 

From day to day there is only a small amount of total snow loss due to wind or sublimation.  So a question is where did all the loose snow from the last storm dump that originally was over what became the steep slab area go?   I'm guessing that snow becomes a deeper depth in the hollow areas.   In other words a slope becomes more even and flat overall after several days with hard pack slab areas thinner and hollow areas deeper.   And that is where I think a solution may lie in making better use of the extra snow that ends up in the hollows.  Not something that can be done with shallow base depths but once average base depths are more than say 6 feet which is common out West.

 

So what if instead of starting by moving the pushed down the hill snow back up, grooming cats instead dug into the flat slabs breaking rototilling them up into small ground up material, and then moving up all the pushed down the hill snow to cover such with a deeper layer of loose snow?   Well one could expect skiers would take longer before a top layer was skied off but eventually it would be and the result would be yet a new hard slab layer below.  There would be a limit to how far down such a layer might be ground up as before long, dirt would be dug up.  Thus grooming experts probably figured that out long ago so do not try and break up hard pack slabs but rather have a strategy of waiting for a subsequent storm dump to bury everything so they can start again.  Unfortunately The West weather during many seasons has a knack for occasional long droughty periods interspaced with stormy periods.  

 

However here is an idea and would be only a strategy during extended dry periods.  Lets say during summer a bunch of small diameter elastic plastic sticks are placed down into the ground in such places of a run at adequate spacings with the above ground crudely calibrated to a reasonable minimal depth height groomers ought not dig below.   That would provide those running grooming cats a better visual understanding of snow depths while they were running the cats all through a season.  The tops of the sticks might be reflective silver so they might shine in the cat headlamps and something not easily damaged by ski edges or unpleasant for ski edges to pass over.  Obviously the strategy would be to always have such a level well below what was likely to be skied up during a day of skiing so during most of a season groomers would never see the plastic sticks.  But if they did show it would be a warning to adjust the snow depth in such areas.    The current situation seems to be that the steep smooth slab areas are only receiving thin layers on top that are skied off rapidly.  If instead all areas received say a good foot of loose snow, I am wondering if the results after a typical Saturday of skiing might end up looking more like a mogul field of small infant bumps many of us enjoy instead of those awful piles of loose snow separated by long lengths of hard slabs.  So by using the plastic sticks a groomer might better be able to increase the layer of loose snow moved around each day versus the current system of merely placing a thin layer atop the slabs.  Of course this kind of system will only work at results that tend to have multi foot depths of snow and may not be practical in areas where rocks outcrop as knobs in the terrain.  However I'd hope there is quite a bit that can be improved even though it sounds like more work for a grooming crew. 


Edited by dave_SSS - 1/27/13 at 4:28pm
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