Air:W/C snow: as of:
Hours: Monday - Friday 09:00 - 21:00, Saturday - Sunday 09:00 - 16:00
Please note updates can be found in the 'Overlander Insider' Facebook feed on the homepage.
If you are a follower of the Overlander Insider you've probably heard terms like 'the roller' , 'ginsu' and 'the Cat' along with trail references like 'outers', inners', 'greens' and 'local greens' and wondered what those all actually mean. Hopefully the following will help you out with this, and give you a bit of insight into what gets done and why.
We're going to start small and work our way up, this also corresponds to when they get used in the season, from early to full go!
The Roller: This is what comes out the earliest. It is used to pack the fresh snow and create the firm base that is essential to having a good season! It's basically a 20 gallon weighted barrel and snow skirt that is pulled behind the snowmobile. It's rarely used after the snowcat has started grooming, except in cases of major fresh snowfall.
The Ginsu: This trailer is what makes our early and late season possible! It is another tow behind device used with the snowmobiles, like the roller, but it has two sets of cutting blades a smoothing comb and a track pan. Early season after rolling, the ginsu is used to both set the classic tracks and create the skate lanes. It's able to operate with much less snow than the big machine making it the perfect way to be skiing sooner. Once the season is in full swing and the big machine is out, the ginsu is used just for freshening up the skate lanes, as re-cutting the classic tracks set by the cat is difficult with the small amount of cut it has. While the ginsu is great on packed trails, if we get too much fresh snow, it bogs down and becomes unusable. It is also sensitive to moisture in the snow, if it it is too wet, instead of creating nice skate lanes, it drags the snow and turns into a giant snow ball behind the sled.
The Cat: This is the big machine, our Bombardier Snowcat. This beast is the last to roll out as it needs a substantial amount of snow in order to work properly. If there is too little snow, the grouser bars on the tracks can turn-up dirt and rock on the trail making it difficult for skiers. It also has the same susceptibility to too much moisture in the snow as the ginsu. When conditions are right though, this is the machine that creates the double classic tracks and skate lane in near perfect order. If the base is good, it is also the only machine able to handle significant snowfall.
Now that you have an idea of what's what, lets look at where's where.
When you see the grooming reports we generally have the trails broken down into 3 sections, 'Outer', 'inner' and 'greens', but you'll sometimes hear about 'the locals', 'the race trails' and 'the DTs'. mentioned. These terms are all somewhat fluid, but here is typically what they refer to:
The Outer-loops: These are trails furthest out from the booth including: Sidewinder, Ambush, Rustler, Heartbreak, Look-out, Ricochet, and Geronimo.
The Inner-loops: We think of these as the 'middle' of the trail system. It refers to: Rattler, Tumbleweed, Quickdraw, Hold-up and typically but not always the 'race trails'.
The Race Trails: These are the shorter, inter-woven system of trails around the stadium area including: Bronco, Snakebite, Showdown, Lasso, Eldorado, Rawhide and Outlaw.
The Greens: These are the most heavily used trails, and the ones which get the most attention paid to them because of their heavy use, and that they are what most people see first when arriving to ski at Stake Lake. They are: Cartwheel, Little Joe, Hoss, Ponderosa, Sitting Bull, Cowpoke and Drifter. If you see 'local greens' or 'front of the house' , this consists of all the greens, except for Cowpoke and Drifter.
The DT's : This is our Dog Trail! This is the last to get good snow, and the first to lose it sadly, as it is a very fun loop, even without a pooch with you.
When we decide on what grooming needs to be done, there are many factors that get looked at before making the decision.
Of course, the biggest factor is the weather, which itself has a few factors to consider. The two main ones we look at are temperature and snowfall. If there is major snowfall in the forecast in the near future and it is only forecast to last a short period (say a day), we may postpone grooming anything until the system has passed. If it will be steady over a longer period, we may get the cat out to pack the trails making it easy to create nice trails once the system passes.
Temperature is mostly a concern early and late in the season when we flirt with above freezing. Grooming the trails above zero or when high moisture is present runs the risk of creating more of an ice rink than a ski trail. Conversely when it is very cold, the snow is hard to groom and what normally would normally take a few hours, could easily double the time required.
Other factors we look at are trail usage and upcoming events. If there haven't been many skiers out, and conditions have otherwise been OK (cool and no/light snow accumulation) we may hold-off on grooming one section or another until something changes. This is especially important on the Dog Trail were usage isn't always reported, and we need to base decisions on reported use.
When large events are upcoming, certain trails may see more grooming to prepare them for the event. Banking corners and ensuring firm bases can take many grooming passes over the days leading up to the event.
Matt and Lee do what they can keeping the skate lanes in shape with the ginsu, but another factor is availability of our groomers. All of the grooming done with the Cat and a large majority of the work done early season is all by club volunteers. They put hundreds of hours in maintaining the machines and of course on the trails, and while they are generally able to make things happen, sometimes the stars just don't line up and we don't have a cat driver.
With luck this has answered some of your questions about terminology and why we do what we do. If you do have any other questions, feel free to ask the guys in the booth, they'll do their best to answer.