Chasing the groomer

With multiple recent snowfalls of 3″ or more, skiing – and grooming – the local trails has been a challenge.  The groomers just finished covering all 65 kilometers on five IMG_9511ski trails in Duluth on Wednesday when they were buried again the next day with fresh snow.  The deep soft snow makes skiing slow and tiring but incredibly beautiful.  And after one and a half winters of meager snowfall, we cross-country skiers are thrilled with this turnabout.

I headed over to the ski trails early this morning.  I was eager for a morning ski, the quietest part of the day with few other skiers making the rounds.  Having just been groomed two days ago, I figured the likelihood of another pass by the groomers was low, and I’d just deal with the deep snow.  And I was right.  Mostly.  As I completed my first loop around the system, I saw the Pisten-Bully heading my way, coming up from the very bottom of the trail.  I waited for the massive machine to pass then skied the opposite way to give him a head start, hoping he’d stay ahead of me clearing the trails for my second lap.

With all the loops, side trails and connectors, grooming the system has to be something like a mathematical equation, figuring out the most efficient route to hit each section once and only once – or twice in the areas where it is double-tracked for classic.  My math background liked thinking about that optimization problem.

I was pleased and impressed that the trails were being groomed again so soon, and decided to investigate Duluth’s trail grooming.  Who is behind this task, and how do they get it all done?  I learned that it was no accident that we were seeing increased activity on trail maintenance.  The City of Duluth has a team of people for grooming, and for the first time in years they now employ three people for the task.  In addition, they have added two new pieces of equipment – a snowmobile and a Ginzu Groomer owned by the Duluth XC Ski Club (DXC).  The result is that they can send out two separate teams of groomers to tend two locations at once.  The new equipment also enables them to maintain ski trails when there is no new snowfall by regrooming the existing base of snow.

The future looks even brighter, thanks to the Park Fund that was approved by Duluth’s voters in 2011.  The city plans to purchase another Piston-Bully and another track-setter in two years.  Those are our tax dollars at work – I heartily approve.

Let’s hear it for our groomers!  And let’s hope the snowfall continues to keep them busy.

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