February 13th, 2014
In between enjoying watching the Olympics and actually skiing myself, there has been the opportunity to groom the trails. This winter has been cold but not too snowy. The season began with promise before a warm spell reduced the good skiing to enough snow to slide around on and possibly get hurt during a fall. The firm edgable (code in ski report parlance for icy) conditions with a dusting of powder was really good at hiding all of the rocks, stumps and other hard, immobile trail stuff. The edgable layer wasn’t thick enough to scour into a fun surface. For two weeks the trails were not usable for much of anything.
When the snow finally arrived it was super light, dry and 12″ deep. The sled couldn’t pull anything since the track just sheared through and spun. Admittedly, it was pretty fun yahooing around the trails pre-packing the trails with just the sled. The sled-packed areas firmed up enough to offer traction and reduced drag when the roller was pulled around. Let the snow set of a few hours and the level drag was next and did an awesome job filling the divots, hollows, and getting the trails as planer as the new snow allowed.
Unfortunately, the light snow packs pretty well and the edges of the trails are rather square and in places, narrow. When skating the ski tips get caught beneath the edge and cause all sorts of headaches for skiers. What to do has always had me a bit flummoxed.
Grooming supply companies sell wings to round out the edges of trails and other implements to pull snow in from the sides and redistribute it under the drag. Whatever it was it needed to be flexible to flex around trees and pop back into shape. I wasn’t interested in making hinges and spring and anything too mechanical. Just another thing to break and need fixing. The answer needed to be passive.
We heat exclusively with wood and to keep precip. off the woodpiles, sections of metal roofing top the stack and are held in place by old tires. Eureka! What about a 1/4 round of tire bolted to the Tidd? It will hold its shape, act as a scoop, and flex around trees.
An old truck tire was pulled off a woodpile and quartered with the abrasive wheel of my grinder. A sharp knife removed a bit of sidewall before being bolted into place.
During a test run the tire turned out to be a bit flaccid and a few lengths of rope helped but there was too much stuff. My old barrel roller from a few seasons ago was stashed in the shed and re-purposed as a backer for the tire. A few short bolts and large washers held it together. The lamination worked great holding the tire in place with minimal support from rope.
My 10 year old son likes to drive the sled and groom. He runs the sled and I sit behind him for safety and to offer suggestions on where to go etc. This all works great when bulking out the snow with a roller or something else where we can remain towards the center of the trails. Packing near the edge of the trails requires a bit of understanding of the offtrack between the tracking of the sled and whatever is being pulled. With the wings the serpentine game of avoiding immovable objects like trees has gone away.
In addition to pulling in more snow, the wings greatly reduce the tip catching and also make the trails appear visually wider.
As this post is being written it is snowing quite hard. The forecast predicts 8″-16″ and the first rolling will be undertaken right after this installment is available on-line. We should have deep set trails and I am really eager to see how the tire wings perform.