April 25th, 2013
It’s April 25th and the last bit of snow has melted off the trails. Skiing has been finished for almost three weeks and looking back the season was pretty good.
Grooming began on December 27, a bit later than we had hoped for but the at home ski season had started. The biggest snowfall, a whopping eight inches, was in March and fell after the equipment had been put away. Of course it was taken out of hibernation and some of the best grooming of the season was during this six day re-immersion into winter.
Snowfall total for the season was just shy of forty inches. Even with all of the snowfall, not much accumulated and the good race skis remained in the bag for the second straight season. They still have the storage wax applied after the 10-11 season.
At best. portions of the trails had a base of eight to twelve inches of compacted snow. On average the trails held around six inches. Compared to last season, this year had very little mid-winter rain to transform the snow into ice. The impediments to deep snowpack this season were the long stretches of sunny weather and lack of refreshing snows. Most of the base sublimated away exposing the rocks, sticks and uneven surface pushed up by the hoarfrosts of early December.
The sled consumed $75.00 worth of gasoline and ate one $85.00 belt. Time spent on the sled grooming was about fifteen hours. All in all pretty inexpensive in cash and time. Add in the convenience and decadence of ski trails twenty feet from the door and the value is huge. This season I managed an almost 3:1, ski:groom ratio which is most likely contributed to the infrequent snows. Most grooming passes were made with the bedspring and just broke the glazing of the trail surface. The Tidd was used three times mostly to wear off some of the surface rust.
I did manage to break the shear pin on the Tidd’s hitch. The teeth hit a root and stopped the groomer while the sled and I kept going. Never having broken the pin (just an 8D box nail) there was not a replacement anywhere on the sled. There was a length of webbing under the seat so I lashed the equipment back together and finished laying down some really nice skate lanes.
This summer I have access to an excavator and plan on fixing up some of the trails. Moving rocks with levers and pulleys is actually really fun but diesel powered hydraulics are much faster and safer too. There are a few widow-makers to clear up and maybe a few more trails to cut in. I’m also on the lookout for a better pulling machine but first have to find some cash.
Thanks to you fellow CGers who sent in photos of your rigs. Here are two and the photo captions will describe what we have out there.
Thanks for sending the photos and anyone else out there who wants to share the fun, send me some pics. to post over the no-snow season of Citizen Groomery.3 comments
March 4th, 2013
Since the last post over a month ago a lot has happened in the CG world. We’ve had a massive melt out which brought the base to essentially none. Sure, there were spots of snow but nothing skiable. We had a cold snap with temps in the –20F range making the patches of snow very icy allowing the cold to blister the exposed soil with hoar frost boils. We finally received 6” of groomable snow.
While compacting the snow with the roller and attempting to pack the trails wide anticipating more snow during the next eight weeks of winter, the PVC roller frame contacted a tree and broke. The ends were lashed together and the pass was completed with little more incident. Heading to the DMV to renew my CDL the opportunity to stop at the steel supply presented itself. The day of the trip temps were right on the edge of snowing and the precip left the salted roads wet. Not wanting to liberally coat the virgin steel with a powder-coat of road salt I passed on the acquisition of the materials and just repaired the PVC frame.
A friend moved a 24’ X 36’ barn using a crane to reposition the building about ninety feet from his neighbors property to his own. Very cool seeing an entire building, including the contents, plucked off the foundation and moved. In about 5 minutes the barn was sitting on a new set of piers. This move uncovered a few old fashioned bedframes which were donated to the CG arsenal of implements.
When I first began grooming the trails I was under the impression sophisticated and specialized equipment was required. The idea of pulling a bedframe seemed stupid and desperate. Turns out I was wrong. In the right conditions the bedframe is awesome. It doesn’t have the ability to cut the snow very deep to rejuvenate a hard frozen surface. What it excels at is buffing out a frozen granular trail scuffing up the surface and leaving a layer of loose ice ball bearings and fast skiing. The corduroy is great in wetter conditions for getting air under the skis but the corduroy is stationary and compresses rather than mobile nature of the ice bearings.
The bedframe also does a fantastic job of removing the wide wale left behind by the corrugated roller which essentially sets a seven foot wide row of tracks. After the rolled surface sets up the springs distribute the raised and freeze dried/slightly transformed snow.
The downside of the home-grown implements is the lack of weight to pack the snow. Any more than 4”-6” (depends upon the water content) and the roller can only compress the snow so much. Lack of compression allows poles and skis to poke through. What heavy equipment does is set the snow faster. What will set the snow eventually is time. Grooming and skiing at home is fun but getting up at 2 A.M. to groom the trails allowing enough time for the snow to set for an 8 A.M. ski is borderline maniacal. The lightweight equipment does offset the shortcomings of the sled allowing me the decadence of having ski trails twenty feet from the door and the ability to ski almost at will. Everything is a compromise.
I’ve been curious what other CGers out there are using to keep the trails in good shape. If you have any photos, send one or two along to me and I’ll post them in future entries.2 comments
January 16th, 2013
Until this week’s warm spell the skiing has been spectacular. The grooming has been non-existent due to the low volume on the trails. No matter, with temps remaining in the single digits or just below zero at night with highs in the 20s the skiing surface remained packed powder and never glazed over enough to require a scuffing. In the past teo weeks the groomer has been used for forty-five minutes and the amount of skiing dome by me has been about twenty hours. This is a fantastic effort to reward ratio.
The community has been skiing quite a bit too and the new trails are well received. As a 6th grade school project, my daughter is taking a GPS trace and creating trail maps to leave at intersections. The class is using computers and this project encompasses the use of peripheral data acquisition devices (GPS), available data bases (Google Earth) and basic data manipulation. The signs will also be bi-lingual for the occasional Spanish speaking visitor. The project is really an exercise in thinking and planning.
With no trails to groom and too much time on my hands I needed something to do with the limited snow available in the yard. Grooming is a great way to play with snow and create something for people to enjoy. I love playing in the snow and with snow. I just love snow and should have chosen a different career path so I could be paid to do something with snow.
Several years ago the family went to Quebec to race a biathlon at the ValCartier venue just north of the city. While I raced at this fantastic venue, the family went to a snow tubing park and heard about the Hotel de Glace (http://www.hoteldeglace-canada.com), about twenty minutes away from the venue. The idea of going to some stupid tourist trap bummed me out. Was my pre-judgment wrong. The Ice Hotel was huge, filled with rooms and artwork, had a bar and slide inside and worth the trip to see it. The place was spectacular and amazing and somewhat inspiring.
The Hotel de Glace helped add to my desire to play in the snow. I had built quinzees and other snow caves and these were fun but lacked imagination and WOW factor. The purchase of an igloo form (http://www.grandshelters.com/index.html) made for some great outings and we built igloos for the elementary school.
The idea of building some sort of ice fishing shelter with rooms and only a door to remove come springtime or building a few shelters along the trails or maybe a snowmobile trailside snack bar made entirely out of snow. I have always wanted to throw a skiing party during a full moon and having a snow shelter along the way might be a fun place to stop, have a drink and a bon fire.
To accomplish this idea, a lot of snow needed to be moved quickly and the form needed to allow for a variety of floor plans. A catenary shape was built using the available materials, hinged so it would collapse away from the snow, moved , re-erected and continue the build. I built it and the snow=less winter last year kept any trials from happening.
With the recent snow the kids helped me add a few hinges, screw an old pair of skis to the base to move it and I borrowed a snow blower to begin the field trials.
The photos tell the story pretty well.
The warm weather hammered the snow and the forecast is for a few inches to fall. Hopefully enough to groom and ski and support my snow building habit. The grooming is fun too.1 comment
December 29th, 2012
My sliver of hope paid off this past few days as it snowed about 6″-8″ and didn’t warm up or rain afterwards. This was the upside. The less upside was the panic of procrastination (masked publicly as superstition) of building a roller frame.
There isn’t a pile of steel available for welding up a roller frame and the idea of racing the 50 miles north to the steel supply was bordering on ridiculous. Plus, the $75 in gas to make the trip is better off spent on fueling the sled. Fortunately, the cheap Yankee in me has kept a pile of 3″ PVC pipe stashed behind the barn “just in case…” Scaring up a single 90 and two 45s and thawing the glue inside the house and the roller frame began taking shape. Eventually a steel frame needs to be welded and the PVC was going to get me through the moment and most likely result in another tree contact disaster but the forecast called for 10″-14″ and not packing in 6″ lifts makes for soft and hollow trails. A piece of 3/4″ poly-pro webbing and steel ring for a hitch and load limiter and the 12/13 grooming season was underway.
So far the frame has worked despite being bounced off a few trees. The webbing did its job as a load limiter and failed several times. Each failure rendered the “hitch” a bit shorter and tying knots was a chore. Before heading out to groom the spare webbing was taken out of my pocket and left on the kitchen table figuring the frame would succumb to rapid deceleration against a tree and suffer catastrophic failure. I didn’t truly expect the webbing to fail first and do its job.
I finished the roller passes of all 10k well after the sun went down. The rolling didn’t take too long I just began as the disc of the sun was perched at the horizon planning to roll half the trails. Everything was working and the Cheshire Cat grin clouded my thinking and the entire system was rolled.
The bridge was actually rolled; the new sections of trail cut two summers ago (some post has photos of us pulling rocks) were rolled with the intent of being able to ski them and not make a run dodging sticks and other low snow trail crap fearing puncture wounds and just too high stump impacts as I made last season.
The roller wasn’t very free of frost and ice adhered grass and dirt from sitting for a year so a lot of snow grabbed on and the rolled trails were packed and very lumpy. The next morning the drag was pulled to level the humps and move the snow around a bit more to help make it solid and flat. It worked well to level everything and managed to snag every stick and lump of hoar frosted soil. There is barely enough snow to groom and ski.
An hour after beginning, the first groom of the season was complete and time to set first tracks. The plan was for me to have the virgin go at the trails but I was beaten to the ski by my kids. They were excited to ski and dug out their skis, boots, poles and whatever else they could find and went skiing without me. I was both bummed and thrilled with an overriding sense of pride with my children’s independence.
We managed to ski almost all of the trails and ran into a few neighbors who after hearing the sled, grabbed their skis and went out to get the season started.
Actually grooming the trails points out all of the saplings and areas where summer maintenance could have been better. This past summer I was excessively apathetic and didn’t get out enough to put the trails in good shape for skiing. The next few ski events will be carrying a set of loppers to trim back branches and remove what should have been cut during the off season.
I’ve also come to realize trails should be cut much wider than originally believed. If during the build a tree location gives pause about the stay/go aspect just cut it. Mow a bit wider too. Walking and operating a rig almost fifteen feet long requiring wider radius turns are different and in time I will be able to walk and see the trails as I do from the sled. For now I’ll tag the larger trees and stuff for removal next summer. For now I’ll just groom and enjoy myself.6 comments
December 25th, 2012
December 21. Traditionally the day with the shortest possible amount of daylight. Once again, this year didn’t disappoint and the day was short just as predicted.
The winter has been dark, from a psychological perspective, and its time for things to become brighter. Snow, or the lack of it has again been the story for the start of Vermont’s cross country ski season.
In the last post, superstition was the main theme. The fear of being prepared too early kept Snow Miser from dumping a lot of snow. Apparently, his brother, Heat Miser, was pissed and didn’t give old Snowey a chance to do his stuff.
By mistake the chosen word was superstition and it should have been apathy. Last winter stole the fun right out of grooming. We had plenty of snow but it was usually followed by warm temps and rain. This season it was difficult to get excited with great fears of another disappointing ski season lurking around.
Maybe the extra three minutes of daylight perked me up today and a feeling of hope germinated and began to grow. Stepping outside to the woodpile with hopes of reigniting the last few glowing embers in the woodstove back into a roaring fire to heat the house, my deck was covered in a light but measurable amount of snow. There was no precipitation forecast and the snow found a way to squeak in anyway. I was excited.
Wanting to get a bit of exercise in the waning hour of daylight, Nathan and I decided to walk the trails and check for any downed limbs, brush, and remember where the fallen trees are. We had a blast walking on hoar frosted and heaved trails. There is a decent amount of water in the ground and the cold temps were drawing the water molecules into towers pushing up soil, leaves and forest floor detritus.
It has been at least a month or two since I’ve been around the length of the trails and I was amazed to see how good they look. The neighbors have cut the tall grasses, ferns and ragweed from the trails. I usually refer to the trails as community ski trails to avoid the conceit of saying they are mine. They are not but since most of the maintenance is undertaken by myself there is a sense of ownership. Having the neighbors head out and clear the trails was awesome and the term community is now more than a bit of cloaked misdirection to hide behind.
The season’s firewood cutting finished off the remaining two-stroke fuel so I headed to the local store with a big gas can. A gallon of mix will keep the saw running long after the trails are cleared and the extra fuel is for the sled. Yes, I am hopeful enough to buy fuel in anticipation of getting the snowmachine going. My enthusiasm was overblown enough to drop an email to a guy on Craigslist selling a BistenBully PB150 with an 8 foot width and plow. Why I believed I had a spare 30 grand for a toy is beyond me but it was nice to be excited about the prospect of grooming this season.
Have a joyous holiday season and let’s keep hoping for snow.
November 10th, 2012
Last night we received enough snow to make a snowball if you scraped off the hood of the truck or porch railings. Not time to break out the grooming equipment just yet. This veneer of of snow did provide a wake-up call and a segue to a bit of collegiate memories.
I had a professor who would assign a paper on a Monday and have it do Friday. This schedule gave his students five days to conduct the research and write the paper. His logic presume we’d wait until the last minute to start even if we had weeks of lead time. He could have assigned it to me on Thursday afternoon with no effect on my planning. Decades later and the pattern of last minute heroics remains the SOP.
Leap forward to this week and winter shooting a warning across the bow of my grooming operation. Groomable snow might be a few weeks away and there is still a lot of work to do. The trails provide a place to ski in the winter and access to firewood in the summer. My procrastination at collecting the bucked up trees bit pretty hard. My last post showed a dry season and firm trails. With a few good sized storms and steady rain have rehydrated the trails making truck passage a mud bogging adventure. Now I need it to stay cold with no snow so the ground freezes so the family won’t.
Last season I destroyed my wooden roller frame and had every intention of welding up a much stronger and hopefully crash resistant steel chassis. I haven’t even made the trip to the steel supply for materials. Granted, the drive is long and gas is expensive but these are only excuses to cover my procrastination.
My ego can’t admit/accept pure sloth so I’ll play the superstition card. Last season I was all set to groom by the beginning of November and we had a horrible winter for skiing. With a bout of omnipotence followed by humility, my preparation was responsible for the horrid ski season here in the Upper Valley. This year I’m going to wait until the middle of a blizzard to buy steel and begin the welding projects. Yes, the “s” is correct. I need to rebuild my drag too. Just a bit of insurance for the tempt fate strategy for enticing the gods of winter to bury us this season.
The sled needs servicing, trees downed by storms need clearing, wood chips need to fill in the few holes and cover rocks and hollows, the fields need a bit of mowing, and the far out reaches of the trails have yet to be inspected. I’m certain the list is longer. Public admission to my procrastination makes me look irresponsible and not just lazy, or better yet, superstitious.
Since posting last ski season the email notice someone has commented on the blog has stopped working. I really appreciate the comments and feedback so I apologize to Tim for not getting back sooner. I’ll take the risk of running up the hit counter and cover my narcissism with the guise of maintaining relationships with the readers.
In Vermont people are pretty much at the top of the food chain and I never thought the noise of machinery as a survival mechanism. Seeing a bear in Vermont is pretty rare. I’ve seen plenty of evidence bears live near and use the trails for traversing the woods but I have yet to see one on the system near the house.
I’m making this post early Saturday morning and the day is setting up quite well for getting a bit of trail work/equipment maintenance/building today. Can’t do it. There are still a few weeks before the snow arrives for the winter and I don’t want to risk chasing it away by being prepared.
September 22nd, 2012
Hello Fasterskier readers. I hope you enjoyed the summer. Mine was pretty good. The Vermont weather was fantastic and I hope the great summer translates into a mindblowing snowy winter. Before the snow flies there is a lot of work to do on the trails to make them ready for grooming and more importantly, skiing.
Just about once each month during the summer I’d walk the trails with the kids and see what work needed to be completed. There was no plan to expand the trails this season so we just picked up branches and enjoyed the walks. A few windstorms and heavy rain events knocked over a few trees leaving them hanging as Widow Makers or blocking the trails. The grasses and other vegetative matter has grown taller than a newly minted fourth grader and needs to be cut.
The bridge we worked so hard to install last season has held up great and is inundated by Maidenhair Ferns The tree companies clearing branches from the powerlines needed a place to dump chips so we snagged a few loads for distribution into hollows and uneven terrain. Much easier to move lightweight chips than move earth with a shovel and definitely less cash expensive compared to renting or hiring and excavator to level things a bit. The chips should add a bit of organic matter to the muck, decompose and build decent soil to support growing grass. Mowing sucks but making a pass twice a year with the scythe is actually good exercise and enjoyable.
The grass seed we spread in the spring has grown into a decent carpet and after the autumnal mowing we’ll put down a bit of limestone to sweeten the soil a bit since a good percentage of the trails run through conifer laden woods and tend to have acid soils. Adding chips will acidify things too and the limestone will help counter the effect of the chips. The spot or in this case meandering treatment will give the grass a better shot at remaining strong and hold the trails together and with luck, help cover the small rocks and other base destroying detritus scattered about.
In addition to trail work there is rebuilding the roller and welding up a new leveling drag. These two tasks should have been completed during the summer when I had more time. I had a professor in college who’d assign a term paper on Monday with it due on Friday. Students complained and his response: “Even with the semester to do it most of you won’t start until the due date is two days away so I’m saving you the stress of worrying about it.” Term papers and trail work suddenly feel connected.
One motivator for getting started now and not waiting for the first snow to begin the work is keeping up with the blog. I appreciate the comments and feedback from the readers. If there is anything you’re curious about please ask. This will be the third season of the at home trail network and I’m really excited to see what the season brings.1 comment
March 15th, 2012
The vernal equinox is still a week in the future but from the weather you think its a week in the past. Temps in the mid 60, sun and almost no snow left at the house. The dirt roads contain axle deep ruts filled with sloppy mud running parallel to the direction of travel. Mud season reminds me why I own four wheel drive vehicles. Definitely not for snow travel. The only thing keeping me tied to winter is the lack of crocus by the depleted woodpile.
The grooming season wasn’t a complete bust. After the roller incident, temps remained below freezing for three days! The sled was full of gas and oil so I groomed up the field across the street into 250 meters of fast trail. The family had a blast chasing each other around, made up a few relay races and it felt like mid winter fun. Sad to admit how tired I was that evening and day after from skiing for a bit over an hour on flat terrain.
With 1/2 tank of fuel still in the sled I debated siphoning it out. The decision was easy, $8.00 worth of gas was not worth the mouthful I’d spit out and horrid after taste. Might as well burn it up pulling the Tidd and risk dragging it through the woods to access the snow filled open areas a kilometer away. Well worth the risk. The snow packed with the busted roller was firm with a slight glaze which the Tidd pulverized into super fast roller bearings made of chopped ice. Stiff muscles and no ski fitness be damned. A neighbor and I skied the bejeezus out of the trails. Upon returning home it required great effort to lift my arms to pluck a drinking glass out of the cabinet. By the next morning, the sun had melted the snow. At the house trails, the 2011-2012 ski season was a bust. The last day of grooming and skiing were fantastic and it’s always good to end things on a high note so the decision was made to put everything away.
I took advantage of the fast disappearing snow to put the sled away for the summer. The dismembered roller is in a good spot for off season repair. The rest of the grooming tools are piled into the barn awaiting the next season’s snowfall.
With all of my whining this season it’d be difficult to believe we received 30″ of snow. A bit below a normal winter but still enough to ski and groom. What we also received was a lot of warm weather and rain which melted almost every flake soon after it found the trails. Each snow event was re-starting to lay down a base. We spent winter in perpetual early December.
Including the pre-Thanksgiving groom and ski, a total of 9 gallons of gasoline was purchased at a cost of $37.00. 4 hours was spent grooming and 8 hours fifteen minutes spent skiing. I never waxed my skis so the kit is right full for next season.
In short, I am very much looking forward to next ski season. The off season plans for the trails are leveling a few spots and maybe adding a few hundred meters. There is also that pesky roller to rebuild. I’ll post some of the highlight.
For those of you with enough snow to ski, enjoy it. If you’re a fellow CG, please take a pass for me.
Thank you all very much for reading and writing comments. Your participation helped me laugh at a very strange winter.2 comments
March 5th, 2012
The highly anticipated snowstorm left us with almost 6″ of wet snow on top of bare ground and ice. In the wood, 3″ made it to the trails. I hooked up the virgin roller to run it through the fields across the street hoping to see how it works. The results were better than I had hoped for. Easy to pull and wide which will hopefully reduce the number of passes needed to prepare the trails. This pass reintroduced me to the crappy steering of wet snow over bare ground. After a pass the snow sticks and sets making the steering on subsequent passes still poor but significantly better. The snow also shears away from the ground under the tracks so the ass end of the sled tends to wander a bit going uphill or across a pitch.
Overnight temps dipped into the low 20s which dried and firmed the snowpack. In the morning, the leveling drag was pulled over the rolled areas leaving a very nice skatable 200 meter loop. The forecast called for rain and warm temps and I was feeling a bit desperate to take a pass on the new trails before the snow melts. The new trails have a few narrow sections (openings in stone walls, trees, the bridge deck) and I was curious how the roller fit through or didn’t. The snow was deep enough to put a good lubricating layer on top of rocks and reduce the friction of snowmobile skis in addition to easing the transitions up onto and off the variety of lumps and bumps.
The roller frame is made of wood since it is cheap, available, already made for last season’s barrel, and easily altered. The flaws in the roller are flats at the end to catch on whatever I pass too close and no complete loop around the roller which drastically reduces the stiffness and bumpability. The axle is held in with hitch pins and stick proud of the side rails. Aware of these flaws I decided to go anyway and just be careful. A few times I did stop the sled, unhook the roller and walk it through the tight spots.
700 meters into the new trails at an off-camber slightly uphill left hand turn with the bars at the stop and under light power the sled goes straight, the back jags right. I feel a light bump and hear a loud crack. The flat of the roller frame grabbed a tree and broke. Normally a scenario such as this might send me into a profanity laced diatribe. Not this time. I just laughed at my impetuousness and luck of this happening at the end of a miserable season. I keep a bungee on the sled for some reason and it worked great to patch things up enough to pull the roller out of the woods.
Approaching the turn to head back to the house or across the bridge and the bulk of the trails I chose to head across the bridge and finish grooming with the roller. There were still a few places to gauge and the thing still moved so why not.
7 km. later with 1 to go the right side of the roller clipped a tree dislodging the hitch pin. The axle popped free and the roller experienced catastrophic and terminal failure. More laughing and I removed whatever pieces might fall off on the road and headed home for a cup of tea and something to eat. Later that day I loaded the debris into my truck and stored it in the barn for reconstruction this summer.
With rolled trails the only thing left to do was ski. Aside from crust skiing at the airport my beater skis hadn’t been used on the house trails all season. They have also never been waxed and the whitish bases should have miserable glide on the wet snow. Good thing too since there is still only enough snow in the woods to hurt myself on the downhill sections.
Even with the busted roller the day was a smashing success. The trails ski very well, the bridge held the equipment and I am now forced to buy some steel and weld up a proper roller frame.2 comments
February 29th, 2012
The forecast is calling for 6-10 inches of snow this Lap Year Day overnight. So far this season, the forecasters have been overly optimistic. If the snow falls into this range we should have enough snow to groom. The 4″ we received last week was enough to run the roller around a few of the trails but still not enough to ski on with abandon.
Tonight I’m expecting a NorIncher but hoping for the NorEaster or at least enough snow to ski in the woods. The treed sections of trail only have enough snow to cover the rocks and sticks. For my classic ski the other day temps were 25 F. Instead of wondering if blue wax the kick wax of choice, I pondered what “stick wax” to use. In the fields where there was enough snow, it was a wonderful blue day.
With any luck, I’ll awake in the morning to enough snow to groom and more importantly, to ski. It’d be fun to write about grooming and stop rehashing the lack of snow.