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Fresh Groomed

Perfectly groomed snowmobile trails. Photo by


I’ve heard it said many times by other sledders that a fresh-groomed trail is a piece of heaven.

I agree: being among the first 10 sleds to ride a trail after it’s been groomed is indeed a blessing, especially if it’s set-up overnight and is firm to the carving ski. Besides the obvious smooth ride, there’s peacefulness and quietness about it that stands in contrast to the harshness that can characterize a rough, needs-to-be-groomed trail.

There’s a similar dynamic when a highway or road crew repaves a section of road that’s suffered bad potholes and cracking over the years. There’s a smoothness and quietness of the fresh asphalt that actually feels serene to drive on.

There are those magical times while snowmobiling when, riding along a rough trail, you meet a groomer coming the opposite direction, leaving a perfectly smooth trail for you to make first tracks upon. It’s like winning a small lottery. Such occasions typically elicit fist-pumps and thumbs-up from the group. It’s an automatic happiness enhancer.

Funny, but I admittedly feel a bit of disappointment when, after being the first sledder to make tracks on a fresh-groomed trail, I come upon another snowmobiler or another set of tracks. The ride itself doesn’t really change – it’s still smooth as a baby’s bottom – but I suppose the trail looses a bit of its pristine feel. Or maybe it’s some base human disappointment about sharing some of the lottery’s payout?

Likewise, there’s always disappointment when your planned destination takes you off a fresh-groomed trail. Many times I’ve sat at such intersections, trying to figure out an alternative route (or later arrival time) that allows more miles on the smooth section. 

Of course it’s no surprise that there are legions of hardcore snowmobilers who plan their rides around scheduled days and times that groomers operate. I know many people whose life circumstances allow them to ride during the week throughout the winter. Many claim they will not ride during the weekends, because of the increased traffic levels and trail conditions. I enjoy a few such occasions each winter, and can relate to their sentiment if not their good fortune.

Unlike the recently paved road, a fresh-groomed snowmobile trail can lose its perfection rather quickly. I don’t know exactly how many riders are needed to create bumps (I’m sure it depends on myriad factors like snow temperature, base conditions, rider actions, whether or not any sleds have 2.6-in. lug tracks/160-hp engines, etc.), but I do know that bumps and grooves and ruts develop pretty quickly on a Saturday in January.

I don’t mind the chop that develops during a day of heavy traffic: in fact, it can bring its own kind of fun. Skis tend to bite and carve better in such conditions, and there’s an art to picking the smoothest lines that adds dimension to the ride. 

Still, I probably smile the most those times when the trail is butter-smooth.

Thanks to all the clubs and volunteers who groom the trails! You bring fist-pumps and thumbs-up to more people than you’ll ever know. 

Thanks for reading.

Perfectly groomed snowmobile trails. Photo by

Perfectly groomed snowmobile trails. Photo by

Perfectly groomed snowmobile trails. Photo by

Perfectly groomed snowmobile trails. Photo by

Perfectly groomed snowmobile trails. Photo by



  1. A huge thank you and a standing ovation to all of the dedicated people who work so hard to make the trails so safe and fun! Nothing better than a freshly groomed trail! Looks like you took those great trail photo’s here in Northern Maine John!

  2. believe it or not, but i actually don’t enjoy being the very first sled on a groomed trail…. i’d rather go after a few tracks and ski marks are on it for the reasons of better cooling, better sight lines (reading the trail) and more familiar handling .
    i also sometimes think the groomer may be upset with me after meeting him for riding
    on his freshly groomed trail without letting it set up, even though i couldn’t help it because i’m going towards my destination.
    thats just me though.
    i sure appreciate the work and hours they put in!

  3. Most times we groom at night so the trail can set up. It usually takes 2 hours. Plus it is safer. Groomer lights are very visible. Sometimes schedules require us to groom during the day. Please forgive us. Many of us are volunteers. You can help by riding to the side of the freshly groomed trail when possible. Six sleds following a groomer wastes the grooming effort. Once set up a trail can handle a lot of traffic. When a groomer operator sees you 99 out of 100 times they’ll smile. We do it because we love the sport.

  4. Thank you to all the volunteers that make our sport so much fun. Remember there is always room for folks to help out. Contact your local club!

  5. I too have mixed feelings about meeting a groomer, I appreciate the now smooth trail but feel a guilty about not allowing it time for the snow to set up and the effects last longer. What really gets me ticked though is down the trail seeing the tracks of other sleds that had pulled over to let the groomer pass only to see the deep trenches where they pinned the throttle to the handlebars when they pulled back onto the trail.


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