The Zamboni of the Ski Trails
"It would amaze most trail users to know that this level of maintenance for skiing requires SEVEN passes with the grooming equipment over every groomed trail every week. "
-Andy Blossy, Trail Groomer
Few people are aware that the ski trails are groomed much like an ice rink! A snowmachine pulls a heavy "groomer" that roughens the surface of the trails and sets tracks for classic skiing. Considerable training and effort goes into proper operation of the Trail "Zamboni."
If you wonder why skiers get so "high and mighty" about how the trails are used, do please consider this. You would not expect to drive a car, or walk a dog, or walk on the hockey rink right after the Zamboni has passed over it! Actually, the expense of maintaining the ice in the rink may be quite close to the expense of maintaining the trails for ski-skating and classic skiing.
Many survey respondents noted that recently the trails have been in far better shape than in the past. "Almost as nice as Birch Hill" several said. It would amaze most users to know that this level of maintenance requires SEVEN passes over every groomed trail every week. This takes an average of 10-15 hours every week. If lots of new snow falls, or the temperatures are warm, many more hours are required.
Who pays for all this grooming? The majority comes from non-UAF sources. Four years ago, the Fairbanks ski trails were in very poor shape as UAF could not afford to groom them as often as necessary. Just like an outdoor ice rink that gets little maintenance, the trails were too rough to enjoy. Skiers point out that they were not the only ones who abandoned the ungroomed trails; during that time, pedestrians were not willing to walk on them either.
But over the past four years, UAF Athletics and the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks have shared the expense through a 50/50 partnership. An average of $5,000 has been spent on trail grooming alone every year for the past four years, not counting equipment.
In addition to their half of the $5,000 grooming expenses, the Nordic Ski Club also paid over $4,500 for new grooming equipment to use on the UAF trails during the past two years. Thus, their total contribution to UAF trails was slightly over $9,500 for the past two years. A new snowmachine for grooming was purchased this year with money from a State TRAAK Grant.