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.