Trail Grooming: For Safety And For Enjoyment

Some snow mobiles have as much or more horsepower as cars, but ungroomed terrain can be extremely limiting for your trip.

That’s why your local groomers do what they do every single day.

365 days per year — this massive machine is making your snowmobile route both more enjoyable and more safe.

“The front blade is used when the moguls get real high when we have a lot of snow a lot of traffic,” explained Richard Conaway, groomer coordinator for the Kalkaska County Snowmobile Club. “The drag does the pretty part back there it works the snow all the mechanics of working the snow, compressing it, getting the air out and packing it and making it nice and flat like they like it all the time.”

The whole thing costs nearly a quarter-million dollars.

Trail permits and gas tax are what help pay for it.

It’s an expensive machine with a free operator.

A common misconception is that the drivers — like Barry and Richard — are paid.

“We’re all volunteer,” he said.

The seven volunteers each groom the Blue Bear and Cranberry trails one day per week.

An average day out on the groomer is between 8 and 12 hours for this 44 mile trail. This year they’ve groomed 1200 miles compared to 5600 last year!

Motivation to be a volunteer groomer varies.

For some — it’s a meaningful way to hang on to a favorite pastime of 50 years.

“I got COPD now for the last two years so I can’t ride because I can’t breathe with a helmet again and I love grooming.”

For others — it’s helping return a favor.

“Rode the trails for years and found out what they do and wanted to give a little time back to them,” said Bethke.

“Make something that look so terrible you know look so perfect ya know just makes you feel good,” said Conaway.

There’s hardly a comparison between a groomed an ungroomed trail.

“Groomed trail is you’re riding on glass, ungroomed is like you’re riding on a rollercoaster ride up and down, not fun,” said Kalkaska County Snowmobile Club member, Colleen Seitz.

Unenjoyable during and after your ride.

“Usually the next day is when you feel it your back and your arms because your arms are taking a lot of grunt your knees if it’s like that,” she described.

When the trails are nice and groomed however, snowmobilers are able to sit back and enjoy the ride — until they see the groomer coming their way again.

“When you do see a groomer coming at you please give them the right of way or slow down get out of their way it’s a lot easier for you to move than for them to move off the trail so just give them space and give them a thumbs up,” advised Beverly Ulfig, member of Kalkaska County Snowmobile Club.

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