An Inside Look at the Snow Farmers. What it takes to create excellent ski trails.
You have heard us talk about the incredible work that our all-volunteer snow farmers and trail team does to create some pretty spectacular ski trails. So what exactly do they do?
Spring, summer and fall. The work begins in the spring. After the snow melts, the team will begin evaluating improvements needed, trimming the trails, smoothing out the ground, removing boulders, stumps, debris, shrubs and sometimes even trees. They widen some of tight spots, and find some fun places add some more curves and challenges for skiers to enjoy. Then in the fall, they mow all the trails and get the trails cleaned up before the cold season begins.
Making a crop of snow. Snowmaking begins as soon as the weather is cold enough to create a large mountain of snow. This entails setting up the snowmaking equipment at two different snow depots (one at the Nordic Center, one at the north end of the trail system). The first step is to fill up the holding pond with water. While the pond is filling, they get the pumps set up, and install the snow guns (30-foot tall pipes with a large shower nozzle-type fixture on the top). When the system is turned on, a fine mist is sprayed into the brisk, cold air, and a mountain of locally made snow is ready to go.
Spreading the snow on the trails. This is where the snow farmers and the trail team really do their magic. The volunteer farmers donate the use of their big tractors, manure spreaders, skid steers, payloads and other big equipment and start hauling and spreading the snow on the trails. You will see this team of hard-working volunteers working on the trails every week throughout the cold season beginning in as early as Thanksgiving, and all the way through February. With the skid steers, they scoop up the locally made snow, plop it into a huge manure spreader which are hauled by big tractors, where they spread the snow on the trail, then go back for more. One load at a time, the snow mountain is conquered and the trails are born. Then the groomers come through and groom the trails to perfection – as frequently as needed for all to enjoy throughout the entire ski season.
Snowmaking by the numbers. For the 2022 Vasaloppet ski races, this is what they did to prepare the trails:
1 – skid steer, 1 payloader, 1 backhoe/excavator, 1 bulldozer, 1 riding lawnmower
2 – pisten bully groomers
4 – four tractors and four manure spreaders
10 – 23 – Each tractor hauls anywhere from 10 to 23 cubic yards of snow with every load
1300 – Hauled 1300 loads of snow
100 yards x 10 feet – This is the equivalent of spreading enough snow on a football field 10 feet deep
500-plus – Expended over 500 volunteer hours over the course of 3 to 4 months
12 – all of this is accomplished by about 12, very dedicated, very hard-working volunteers
Since the water content of locally made snow is much higher than natural snow, it would take about three feet of natural snow to equal the amount of snow they place on the trail. The higher water content also means that the locally made snow is great for creating really fast ski conditions as well.
We are so very blessed to have this highly skilled and generous team of volunteers who step up every year and accomplish something that even Mother Nature can’t do. Without them, Vasaloppet USA would not be the same.
Thank you, gentlemen, for everything you do.
We also look forward to having you join us this year here in Mora as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Vasaloppet USA. Then you too, will get to experience these incredible trails that this exceptional team of volunteers have prepared for you to enjoy.
Happy Trails to You.