Skyway and County Line trails are groomed 3-5 times per week, and sometimes more. Our intent is to provide groomed trails for skiing every possible day – given the constraints of Grand Mesa weather. Ward will usually be groomed twice per week, depending on storm timing.
We strongly recommend checking the NOAA weather forecast including wind speeds and direction, the GMNC grooming report, and the CDOT road report/webcam before driving up. Also, remember that due to Grand Mesa’s remote location, there is no one onsite 24/7. Therefore our staff must make grooming plans and weather predictions from the valley a good 12 hours in advance. We do our very best, but sometimes there may be surprises!
Many trail users want to know more about grooming and how it affects the trail conditions. Please read on for responses to our most frequently asked questions.
Grooming perfect corduroy is a complex art and science that is influenced by multiple factors including: temperature variations, humidity, wind, sun and shade exposure, frequency and amount of snow fall, type of grooming machine and the attached implements, time of day grooming occurs, and more. When GMNC’s groomers work on the trails they consider all of these factors. The grooming staff consists of two persons who are the only paid personnel in our organization.
The preferred time to groom Skyway and County Line trails is late afternoon or early in the evening. The snow should be at its warmest temperature which helps the tiller break up the structure and also helps the snow crystals to reform. By allowing the newly groomed surface time to set overnight, we will have a firm but not icy surface that gives classic and skate skiers a much better kick and glide. However, depending on storm timing, we may also groom very early in the morning. Keep in mind, the snow temps will be at the coldest point, so the trails may be a little soft and slower.
It makes no sense to groom while it is snowing, so we will groom at the first opportunity once a storm has passed. This may mean grooming some trails early in the morning, and then returning in the evening to finish up grooming. We will avoid grooming with the Pisten Bully (PB) between 9am and 4pm for skier safety, as the machine is quite large and difficult to maneuver. If high winds are called for in the weather forecast, we may wait for them to abate before grooming trails that are out in the open such as Scales Lake Road. Nevertheless, with the frequency of wind on Grand Mesa, open areas may experience some drifting, regardless of grooming frequency or timing. In the spring, with warmer temperatures and higher sun angles, early morning grooming might give better results on sunny aspects where snow tends to melt in late afternoon.
All snowmobile grooming, including Ward, is performed during the daytime for groomer safety.
GMNC’s Grooming Machines
We have two types of machines for grooming: a Pisten Bully 400 snow cat, and three Ski-Doo Skandic snowmobiles with Ginzu grooming attachments, rollers, or graders attached to the back.
The PB 400 is our primary grooming machine for Skyway and County Line. It was purchased in 2016 with donations from supporters, and a major grant from the Jean Thomas Lambert Foundation. The cat’s weight and power allow us to manage heavy snowfall or churn up hard packed snow. Grooming all the trails takes about 5-7 hours, depending on snow conditions.
The Skandic snowmobiles are used to groom Ward, narrow trails such as Summit, and to touch up the Skyway and County Line trails when there has been little change in trail conditions. In early season, we use the snowmobiles so we don’t find ourselves grooming dirt into the snow, and they also serve as backup for the PB in case of mechanical issues.
Snow and Weather Conditions
The Grand Mesa’s unique geographical location and elevation leads to significant grooming challenges including the high frequency of storms, large snowfall amounts, high winds, dry snow, low humidity, and very cold temperatures.
When the area experiences dry periods without new snow, good trail conditions can be maintained if there is already a firm base. However, we have to be careful of over grooming the trails which can produce hard icy surfaces. Too much snow all at once makes the trails too soft and as a result, trail users’ poles punch through, which creates challenging skiing conditions. Spring conditions with no new snow can create a freeze-thaw cycle. When this happens, the trails become icy and require significant mechanical assistance to churn up the ice and set nice corduroy and classic tracks.
High winds are frequent on Grand Mesa, and can quickly create drifts in open areas, such as Scales Lake Road and Tower Trail. During windy periods, good skiing can usually still be found on trails protected by trees.
The combination of high quality grooming, abundant and consistent snow conditions, and uninterrupted rolling terrain create a world-class Nordic skiing experience on Grand Mesa!