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Archive for February, 2011

Virtual Tour

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

After the last freeze/thaw cycle, quite a few laps were needed to transform the hard surface into something to ski on. The first attempt worked at the expense of a drive belt so I knew the setup I have is capable of performing the work. The next objective was learning how to break up the hard surface without destroying a drive belt of spending hours on the sled turning excessive laps of the trail.

The first pass was made with the teeth of the Tidd just touching the surface. This pass did little more than scarify the surface and cut deeper into the small ridges formed by skis and the settling of snow. A few turns of the jackscrew lowered the teeth a bit more and started cutting the hardpack. My belief is the first pass made weak spots in the hard surface and destroyed any support in a lateral direction. Without the support of surrounding  material, pressure from the teeth caused the ice to fail and more easily chip away. A final pass had a nice bow wave of chipped ice and snow forming just ahead of the cutting teeth.

The surface consists of particles ranging in these sizes from the highest percentage down: snow flakes, fine sand, grains of rice, popcorn, peanuts with a few cashews and the occasional walnut. The skiing was fast on firm snow which sintered together into a durable surface. I’m a bit chuffed with myself about the results and no burned up belt.

Here is a virtual lap of the trails right outside the front door starting at the single point biathlon range. Clockwise is the direction of travel for this tour.

The firing point is a plywood platform to level the surface and provide support for the shooter. The platform also allows the height relative to the targets to remain the same regardless of the snow depth. The point is on one side of a gully and the targets the other eliminating the need for snow removal between the target and the firing point. The targets have a shed roof to keep them out of the weather and provide even lighting. The roof is recycled corrugated fiberglass panels.

Targets from the firing point.

Targets from the firimg point. With the exception of the birch tres, this range meets IBU specs for distance and height relative to the mat.

The platform is anywhere between 6″ and 12″ off the ground. By packing in snow it becomes ski in/ski out. Immediately after exiting the point the skier makes this shallow downhill, left turn which then sweeps around to the right and travels along the band of light along the edge of the snow in this photo.

Range exit

After an uphill with a grade causing the skier to choose V1 or V2 the trail turns right and passes behind the targets. Training is a solo affair unless the skiers use the trails behind the firing point. There is only one way into the trails here and they can be closed off to prevent someone from skiing into the area behind the targets. There is a bullet stopping backstop enclosing the rear of the targets  but there is no reason to take any chances on someone getting shot while out for an afternoon ski.

Behind the targets

The photo above shows the trail ascending and bending left. This turn brings the skiers into a shorts section of trail known as the Nose Loop. In this photo, the skier heads out on the left trail and returns on the right side of the photos. This is maybe 150 meters. The loop was named after my wife cut a sapling while clearing brush for the trail. The cut tree fell over pivoting in her hand and the fresh cut end popped her right in the bridge of the nose drawing a few drops of blood. No permanent damage to Jill or the trail.

The Nose Loop

After the Nose Loop the trail bends left into this short straight. This is the high point of the trail maybe 50 vertical feet above the lowest section. The far end of the straight marks the midpoint of the trail having a total length of 850 meters.

Top straight

From the Top Straight the trail takes a hard right where a strong V2 adds speed for descent through a section of kinks in the trail. By brushing the left shoulder on a pine before scuffing the bark of the white birch on the right these kinks can be taken as a straight line. After the kinks the trail becomes a fast, left hand, off-camber sweeping corner which tests the nerves, balance and turning ability of a skier carrying an excess of speed. Skiing clockwise the corner opens up and you arrive at a 5 way intersection. Go left and enter the Wood Loop, another short Nose like section of trail where we collected several cord of good firewood.  This loop is fun to ski and either keep going into the Drag Strip Corner or use it to reverse direction. Either option is fun.

The photos of this trails section were awful and left out.

Drag Strip Corner

Before entering the Drag Strip the skier must negotiate this right angled right hand turn. This corner requires a good setup to carry momentum into the Drag Strip.

Drag Strip

This long straight section of trail has the most time spent going fast. A good exit of Drag Strip Corner and the skier is going fast enough to use an alternate V2 or tuck skate. A good indication of speed is roller coastering the short uphill at the end of the strip. Halfway down the strip on the right side is another trail entry coming in from the house.

Past the Drag Strip is a short off camber downhill which is fun to ski down and a challenge to ski back up. The trail re-enters he woods and transitions uphill where another sweeping but diminishing radius curve awaits the skier. This curve is followed by a short and steep hill with a 10′ elevation gain and might be the most difficult transition of the entire lap. A bad corner setup kills momentum going into the hill and instead of quick gear changes from Alt. V2 to a few quick V1s the skier can find themselves behind the power curve and just trying to get up the rise with some sense of ski form. The tight corner at the top of the rise is easily negotiated and you pass the glider trailer storage area. Not an official name.

Driveway Loop

The top of the difficult transition can be seen just above the doghouse of the trailer. The glider is a DWLKK PW-5. This section of trail moves uphill past the chicken coop and tool barn.

*&%&@# Uphill

Passing the chicken coop on the left side is this short and perplexing uphill. The photos shows it slightly dished making the ski up a bit harder. The skier enters this hill after a slight climb so minimal momentum is carried into the base. The banking on both sides follows the rocky terrain and the trail isn’t wide enough to skate up until the snow depth builds allowing the trail to widen out. Early season skating makes this a DP event or a high tempo shallow V affair. The hill is also a fun sledding run.

Yard Sweeper

From the top of the Steep Uphill the trail descends enough to make this next corner quite fun. The original trail turned hard left just after the small Beech tree on the left of the photo. The sled couldn’t make the turn so I bailed out threading the space between the Silver Birch and Red Maples. The result was a mistake turned awesome. The trail follows the edge of the yard instead of cutting across it. The sweeper brings the skier back to the range to start another lap. The Drag Strip is barely visible along the right hand corner of the photo.

The trail isn’t too long but is filled with enough technical issues to keep it fun. Grooming the trail has made it much faster and my skills have developed quite a bit. During races, corners followed by uphills are my weakest point of skiing. I lose so much momentum and spend huge amounts of energy getting back up to speed. It’ll be interesting to see if my skills have indeed improved or is the familiarity I have with these transitions great enough there is a false sense of improvement?

From the house, skiers can be seen as they move around the trails. The trail winds around and cloverleafs back towards the house which had the intent of my kids being able to get my attention every minute or so if they were in need of something. Now I watch them head out and come back into view which always makes me smile.

Introducing Implements of Trail Conditioning

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Anyone remember the late 1970s pop-variety television piece, The Gong Show? I was 10 and most of the satirical and oddball humor went over my head but I do remember the Unknown Comic. This comedian wore a bag to hide his identity while telling horrible jokes. So far the trails groomed by me do not require bag wearing but I’ll keep it handy just in case.

After the first few posts of Citizen Groomer, several friends of mine asked why I was trying to remain anonymous. I’m not; it just never occurred to me to make a proper introduction or that anyone would care about the identity of the Citizen Groomer.

Like many of you, my reasons for skiing and racing are based on having fun. To support my skiing, money flows out of my accounts and the chances of me making a living from skiing is pretty slim. A big structured training week for me might be 6 total hours (not including shoveling and wrestling with grooming equipment) and if I miss a workout it’s not devastating to my results. At best, I’m a mid-pack citizen racer. My exploits grooming trails are about having fun, doing a good job and enabling others to ski locally.

In addition to introducing myself, I’d like to introduce the grooming implements used to create a skiable surface.

Sled

This 1997 Polaris Indy Trail Touring is powered by a two-stroke 488cc fan cooled twin cylinder engine. The track is 15” wide and 133” long. The previous owner added carbide studs to help with traction on icy surfaces. The sled weighs 518 pounds and carries 10.7 gallons of fuel. The maximum width at the skis is 46.5” and the overall length is 114”. The sled is equipped with electric start and reverse; both considered a requirement for easier grooming. A passenger back rest, heated grips and thumb throttle complete the creature comforts. A hitch was added to the cargo rack to attach the grooming devices.

Tidd Trail Tenderizer

At 48” wide, the Tidd just barely covers the marks left by the sled. Two rows of vertical knives located along the front of the pan cut up icy snow producing a more skiable surface. The front row of teeth are set at a slight angle to the direction of travel which scatters the chopped snow or ice into the next row of teeth. The second row of teeth are set at the same angle in the opposite direction which keeps cutting, leveling and scattering the snow and ice. When used on softer snow, the teeth mix old and new snow  to provide a more uniform and durable skiing surface. The knives can be raised off the snow which puts more pressure on the packing pan. Raised knife packing works well for new snow accumulations of 4″-6″. A comb on the rear of the pan leaves a nice corduroy finish on the trails. The Tidd weighs about 130 pounds.

Note the shiny surface on the knives. Keeping them sharp reduces the workload on the sled.

Leveling Drag

This homegrown tool is one of my favorites. The idea of the drag is to move snow from any high spots to hollows creating a flatter surface. This implement is 5 feet wide and 7 feet long keeping the trail level along the direction of travel and side-to-side.

In place and ready to drag

Knives up and ready to transport down the road.

The 2×4 frame is gusseted for strength and the cutting knives are lengths of old bedframe. The front knives bring snow towards the center dropping it into hollows and the second set redistributes the snow back towards the edges of the drag. A length of elephant’s trunk corrugated drain pipe protects the 2bys and adds a bit of narrow corduroy.

Moving snow around

Moving faster

The leading edge is protected by a piece of PVC pipe. The wheels are for transport up the road to the neighbor’s trails. This weighs about 40 pounds and cost me $15. It is also easy on the sled and does a wonderful job removing the air from new fallen snow of an inch or two deep.

Roller

The roller is another fantastic tool for removing air from new snow and packing it down when accumulation exceeds 4″. Pulling the roller is very easy on the sled. A piece of corrugated culvert would work better and track a bit straighter but the barrels were sitting unused in the barn. The platform at the rear of the frame holds concrete blocks if more weight is needed to compact the snow. The empty, un-ballasted weight of the roller is 40 pounds. The pan will hold 100 pounds of concrete block. Total cost, another $15.

Roller frame ready to have barrel width added

The photo shows the roller being made wider by adding another section of barrel. The frame was built to accept a 5 foot roller section up to 30” diameter for when I find a piece of plastic culvert. Metal works but tends to hold snow where the plastic sheds it quit easily. The plastic culvert is made from UHMW polyethylene which is the basic building block for ski bases. To keep things moving with lower effort I’ll buy some extra flouro powder for rolling in wet and warm conditions.

Citizen Groomer

aka Kevin Brooker

At the point during the Mass Start during the 2010 US Nationals held in Ft. Kent, ME. photo by Andi Pelletier

45 years old, 6’1” tall and weighing in at 160 pounds. Cost; still going up with no end in sight. Married for 20 years and the father of two children. These kids help dad train for a non-mainstream sport and regularly watch him get his ass kicked while racing. They also watch him enjoy every minute of it.

Burning Rubber and Chewing Ice

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

All of the love in the air due to Valentine’s Day must have affected the weather as temps climbed from the single digits into the mid 40s.  Cold-hearted lovers must have shot down a majority of valiant amorous intentions flash-cooling the heat buildup of the day. This crash of hearts dragged the temps down where they recorded a low of  6 below zero the next morning.

The hot/cold cycle transformed the beautiful weekend snow into a hardened mass of white ice. A stout kick of the boot makes a slight dent and I doubt the surface will yield to the edge of a ski. In my mid 20s I’d have been game to ski it as it lay but in my mid 40s I’ll find something else to do and save effort of having the Bambi on ice look while taking a lap of the trails.

The Tidd was designed to break up hard snow. The large and sharp teeth along the front edge inspire confidence in being able to convert this hard-pack into a skiable surface. The weak link is the sled. Will it have the power to pull the Tidd through the hardened snow at a low enough speed to keep the teeth from popping up and causing the equipment to bounce?

The Tidd manual outlines the proper method and speed for changing the icy trail to a pleasant skiing surface. The suggested speed is 4-8 MPH, which is below the speeds I’ve determined the Polaris is comfortable running. When a roof-shoveling job fell through my day became free and I decided to pull the Tidd and see what happens.

At first, the teeth were lowered just enough to contact the trail. This removed any large bumps and the sled worked just fine. A few cranks of the jackscrew put the teeth a finger-width into the hard-pack. Again, the sled did just fine so a few more cranks were added pushing the teeth deeper into the trails and my luck just a bit further.

The sled did the work at the expense of steering. Using all of the skills and acrobatics learned over the past six weeks just barley kept the sled on the trails and out of the deep snow. The trailside lip so despised and removed with great effort became a savior by catching the ski, guiding it around the turn much the same way a motocross rider uses the berms to negotiate corners. Several times I leapt off the sled to remove my weight and push the bars to move the front of the sled back onto the trails all the while keeping my thumb on the throttle. A quick hop onto the running boards kept the momentum going and grooming continued.

In addition to the smell of exhaust, the skunky odor of burning rubber hung around the sled. The extra work and lugging on the engine had the drive belt slipping as engine power overcame the friction of the belt on the clutch. As the belt wore away, each pass of the trails saw the tach read a higher engine speed as the sled plodded along while the Tidd chewed up the ice and spat out a fast skiable surface.

The mirrors showed the Tidd keeping a bow wave of frozen stuff rolling along just in front of the knives. The comb packed this snow cone material quite firm and each successive pass kept improving the trails. The idea of taking a ski later that day made the acrid smell of melting rubber quite sweet.

The family dog, Pip, is an eleven-month-old yellow lab whose commitment to running around competes with top desires to the breed’s loyalty to the food bowl. After picking up my son from school we grabbed the skis and Pip’s harness. An afternoon Skijor to drain a bit of the pups energy and entertain a 7 year old boy was in order and a lot of fun. Pip’s desire to be out front is pretty strong so Nathan donned the harness and went for a mostly effort free blast around the trails as Pip tried his hardest to overtake me. The Tidd rejuvenated the trails replacing ice with frozen water ball bearings. The snow was fast enough that applying tar to the skis wouldn’t have slowed them down at all. Pip didn’t stand a chance of catching me.

The grooming effort destroyed a drive belt and the resulting ski has the dog asleep by the woodstove. I was skeptical of the equipments capacity to turn icy trails into joyous skiing. Replacing the belt will cost a few bucks but the results are well worth it.

The edge of the belt should be a flat sided taper.

Changing Direction

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

This past week has been slow in terms of grooming. With daytime high temperatures holding steady in the mid 20F range and dipping into the single digits at night, the snow has remained very stable. We did receive an inch or two on Saturday evening and I was itching to widen the skiable surface just a tick. In places, while skating, the ski tips tend to catch the edges of the trails if the skier is enjoying the forest and not watching their tips. Fortunately, the forest is much more interesting than ski tips. Unfortunately, my grooming is diminishing the experience since a skier must watch their tips rather than enjoying the woods.

Skiing with friends earlier in the week I was able to spend some time examining the trails and finding areas where they can be improved in terms of grooming. The trails were designed, cut and excavated wide enough for enjoyable skiing as long as I do my job and groom them to capacity.

Widening the skiable area can be accomplished by removing trees which is a big undertaking and changes the feel of the winding trails. The next option is change my grooming patterns to bring the equipment into a more favorable line entering and exiting corners while avoiding trees.

The off-tracking of the grooming equipment behind the snowmobile makes separate lines for the sled and whatever is being pulled.  The longer the train of grooming implements means the sled will carve a more serpentine path with the implement taking a more linear path. Tuck too close to a tree and the sled clears the trunk and the grooming device takes a firm hit. The off-tracking also means the equipment cannot be tucked closely in behind the obstacle after passing it by.

My confidence driving the sled and understanding its capabilities has increased by orders of magnitude over the past month. The decision to groom in the opposite direction might have the desired result of making the trails wider. Traveling downhill through the curves will avoid the need for higher engine speeds which cause the sled to push to the outside. Using gravity to help keep the sled/groomer combination moving the hope is to have the ability to trim the inside line. The direction change should also alter the movement around trees and other trailside obstacles.

Sunday morning the snowmobile was fired up just as the sun began creeping above the horizon. The leveling drag was pinned into the hitch to accomplish the day’s work. Temps were in the single digits and despite the exhaust of the sled, the air had the wonderful scent of winter.

Reversing the direction of grooming had an immediate and positive effect on the ability to groom the trails to improve the skiing. Several additional passes were needed to compact the snow enough to become level with the existing trail surface. In some places the trails are at least three feet wider and much more enjoyable to ski.

Reversing direction didn’t solve all of my trail grooming headaches in terms of obstacle avoidance. What was discovered and determined is how changing directions improves the skiing and the view from the sled.

There was another grooming experiment where more confidence and capabilities were learned. One of my summertime activities is flying gliders so I am well acquainted with the aviators in Post Mills. The local airport is a grass strip and most of the aircraft based there were built during the 1940’s. During the winter the pilots trade wheels for skis and every lake becomes a place to stop and visit with ice fisherman or a good parking spot at the shore side general store.

Hanger Roof Avalanch

The deep snow this year has made it difficult for these small airplanes (Piper Cubs and Aeronica Champs are two popular models based there) to move around the airport. When news of me having a way to compact and groom the snow made the rounds, it wasn’t too long before I received and email asking if I might be able to put the runway into a more aircraft user friendly state.

Runway looking north

With temps in the mid 40s it was decided today was a good day to compact the runway with hopes of the surface becoming firm and flyable. The north/south runway has been groomed. If all goes well, the next flyable day will occur when I’m free and can examine the work from the back seat of a 1940s iconic airplane.

Getting the Hang of it.

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

This winter, Vermont has been blessed with an abundance of snow. Whether or not it has been the case, it feels like we receive three or four inches every couple of days. Each of these snowfalls necessitates a pass by the groomer to keep the trails firm. Being so new at trail maintenance the practice is a good thing.

Learning to groom by the headlights of the sled has been interesting and not as difficult as first feared. The hardest part is identifying where the edge of the trail is which has been made much easier after placing several reflectors along the sections of trail going through fields. I should rig lights to illuminate the equipment behind the sled powered by the engine of the snowmobile but for now, a rechargeable flashlight keeps thing well lit.

Driving the sled and keeping on the trail has become more acrobatic than passive. To assist the steering, it is helpful to move my body around while cornering to put more weight on the skis making them bite into the trails. To keep the trails wide I run the ski right along the un-groomed edge putting the groomer slightly to the outside of the trail. By hanging onto the bars and leaning in towards the centerline of the trail, the sled the sled has less of a tendency to fall into the light, un-groomed snow. The feeling is very similar to hiking out a sailboat to keep it from capsizing. This widening technique is limited by trees and rocks lining the trails and only packs the trails enough to give ski tip clearance while skating. The edges are still not hard enough to keep pole baskets from punching through. My hope is the trails don’t narrow a few inches with each additional snowfall.

So far, the most difficult aspect of grooming has been keeping the trails flat. Many of the trails are 8’-15’ wide and the width of the Tidd is 4’so multiple passes are needed to create a skate lane. Until today, each pass left a small berm which didn’t interfere with skating too much but it looked awful. The berms were most evident going around corners.

Not having a proper grooming sled means I must travel at a speed higher than recommended to keep the engine RPM high enough to prevent the spark plugs from becoming fouled. Tidd recommends grooming at speeds between 4 and 8 MPH. I’m usually in the 8-15 MPH range. Going around curves the groomer whips to the outside of the turn causing the skegs (used to help the equipment track straight) to push snow sideways plowing up a berm of snow and leaving a rut. Tidd is aware of the berming issue and includes anti-berm flaps to help eliminate the pushed up snow.

The anti-berm flaps on my groomer were installed using one bolt and pivoted back from the proper alignment making them rather useless. I drilled another mounting hole to keep them straight which made a huge improvement but the berms were still created. I needed to add some way to keep the flaps pressed down to the sow. This pressure addition needed to be flexible for the occasional contact with an object along the edge of the trail.

Before becoming the owner of the Tidd it was stored for years behind a barn with the comb held in a position higher than it should be to contact the snow. The polyurethane material took a set and remained high.

Using a piece of 2X4, a few bits of an old bedframe, a length of metal electrical conduit, 6” of steel C-channel and 60” of corrugated rain pipe (Elephant’s trunk) a weight bar was constructed to press the comb and flaps into the snow. Being a low budget operation it was $3.00 and twenty minutes well invested. The steel plates from the weight set residing beneath the basement stairs sit on the conduit which presses the 2X4 onto the comb and into the snow leaving nice corduroy. The E-trunk extends past the frame of the Tidd pressing the flaps down and extending the width of the groomer. In addition to flexing away from trailside obstructions, the E-trunk bends upwards putting a shallow radius along the edge of the trail reducing the ski tip grabbing tendency and best of all, eliminating the berms!

Getting some use from the old weight set

The 9th is my 45th birthday and to celebrate, several of my friends are stopping by to check out the trails and join me for a ski around them. They will not be here all at once so it might end up being a big volume day broken up into many sessions. What a fantastic way to celebrate.

Time Spent Shoveling

Friday, February 4th, 2011

The predicted and personally dreaded 24” of snow never fell so the preparations for night grooming were never tested. I can’t honestly say I was disappointed missing out on my first night groom.

The storm was managed from a grooming perspective by using a roller to pack out the snow after 4”-6” accumulated on the trails. The radar showed the storm easing up a bit so I decided to risk it and not roll out the snow during the night. My gamble paid off awakening to find 4” on top of the previous evening’s rolling efforts.

The roller was still connected to the sled and used for packing in the new snow. It seems inevitable ski trails will become narrower as the season progresses putting a high priority on trying to keep them wide. Running the front ski of the sled right on the edge of the packed trail should keep the sled on the packed trail and allow the overhang of the grooming tools to keep things packed wide.

Snowmobiles are horrible in light and deep snow. They sink like a boat with a huge hole in the hull. With enough speed, the sled will plane on top and keep moving. Grooming speeds are below the velocity needed to keep the sled on top of the unpacked snow along the edge of the trail. Run a ski too far off the edge of the packed trail and the sled rolls off and the track displaces enough snow and you are stuck. Most off-trail excursions require unhooking the grooming device and digging out the sled.

One of many. The photo doesn't show the depth of the hole very well. The seat is level with the trail.

The digging consists of removing enough snow allow the track to gain traction, removing any blockage from the skis so they can move up the ramp you build to lower the grade from the bottom of the hole to the trail. Some of the trail is usually removed during the excavation. After extracting the sled and returning it to the trail, the hole must be filled and the trail repaired. To keep the edge of the hole from being a trailside cliff, all of the displaced snow should be replaced. The volume of one snowmobile and associated mess is a bit over a cubic meter of snow. The density of snow ranges from 100kg to 500kg per cubic meter. Each off trail excursion means moving a lot of snow.

Pulling a grooming device degrades the steering of the sled. A curve taken while pulling is a much larger radius than the same curve sans device. I hadn’t realized how much of an anchor the grooming device can be. Putting too much of the groomer into the unpacked trailside fluff and it dives in taking the sled with it. I managed to bury the sled 5 times along an 800 meter section of trail.

Adding to the shoveling requirement is removing the plow curls from roadside trail entrances. The sled is 45” at the widest point. With the exception of the Tidd, my implements are closer to 70” wide.

Gaining access to the trails

Today the groom to shovel ratio on the trails was pretty close to 1:1. This doesn’t include shoveling the driveway, roof, porches, walkways and firing range. My hope is experience will reduce the number of dig-outs I perform during any one grooming trip. Next project is figuring where to include shoveling on the training plan.

Fear of Snow

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

So far the Citizen Groomer experiment has been an overwhelming success. Overwhelming in multiple ways. My thoughts hover around the trails. Are they in good shape? Are they flat and level enough? Glazed and in need of conditioning? Will the predicted snow be too much for me to handle?

Overwhelming in the number of people using the trails. Driving up the road after plucking the kids from school there were two cars parked by the access gate for grooming. Several skiers could be seen moving through the woods. Cars parked trailside have become a more common occurrence which is fantastic. People are out skiing.

Most days after school the kids (7 and 10) toss their backpacks onto the kitchen floor and swap snow boots for ski boots. They spring the dog from his run and head out for a ski lasting anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. We have assembled enough skis and boots that friends of the kids have begun skiing. Two families bought skis after becoming acquainted with nordic sports here at the house. Citizen Groomer is responsible for a bit of trickledown economics.

The downside of the grooming is allocation of time. The trails were groomed on Friday prior to leaving for Lake Placid to race in a biathlon NorAm cup race over the weekend. I figured the light snow on the roof of my carport shed would be fine and I would be able to remove it after I returned. No luck. Turning into the driveway the carport is right in the main view and seeing it collapsed was a bit surprising made me re-think how I allocate my time. Until the collapse of the carport (nothing but a few kayaks and small sailboat inside) grooming had been nothing short of a wonderful experience.

Sitting here writing this post I hear the Weather Channel in the background predicting a huge snowstorm for the northeast. Anywhere from 12”-24” has been predicted for the next 24 hours. A foot of snow is within the capabilities of the available equipment and experience. Two feet might set back the operation.

So far, the snow has been a novice groomer’s dream. Cold temps and low moisture snow have been easy to manipulate and put little demand upon the tools. Heading out at night during significant snowfall is standard operating procedure for most groomers. I have yet to prepare trails at night or during a storm. Tonight might be a first. To say I’m afraid of grooming at night is an overstatement of concern. Nervous is a more accurate description of my emotional state.

In preparation for the inevitable night mission a small “survival kit” has been assembled and stowed in the underseat storage compartment. The kit has chemical hand warmers, a headlamp, glowstick, and a radio. The family knows where I might be and when I should return home. If the sled dies I can walk home in 15 minutes from the most distant point on the trail.

Time to hook up the roller, have a cup of tea and find out my commitment to the project.