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.