Do you ever wonder how New England ski areas have such great snow surfaces for the ones who enjoy a day out on the slopes? Ski resorts have a long history of snow grooming that keeps the slopes in good condition even when there are warmer temperatures and not a lot of snowfall. While you are asleep and dreaming about the day on the slopes, snow groomers are hard at work preparing the slopes for a day of fun.
Snow Grooming and Artificial Snow
Not surprisingly, the history of snow grooming is linked to the history of artificial snow. Ski resorts had begun popping up in various parts of the United States in the early 20th century. However, these resorts needed solutions during those times when early snow failed to fall or the snowfall was not enough to create the most ideal ski conditions. An enterprising ski resort owner named Walt Schoenknecht would not let this be an obstacle during the 1949-1950 ski season at his Mohawk Mountain lodge.
With the lack of snow that season, Schoenknecht trucked in ice each day and crushed it with a behemoth ice crusher. With the help of hired local farmers and their fleet of almost 30 trucks, 100-pound blocks of ice were passed through hands and fed into a hopper that pulverized the ice into fresh powder snow. At one point, an accident caused a little damage to the machine, which changed the structure of the snow a bit.
The First Snow Groomer
Of course, creating the snow is only part of the process. Once the snow covers the slopes, it must be groomed into a condition that makes it safe and easy for skiers to enjoy. By 1962, the first prototype for a snow groomer appeared in 1962. These machines were derived from developments in snowmobiles but serve a much different purpose since snowmobiles were primarily developed to get to hard to reach areas.
Still, snow groomers have continued to develop over the years to create the best snow conditions for skiers whether the snow is real or artificial. Some resorts will actually leave signs on trails to let skiers know if the snow has been groomed or if there is fresh snow on a trail that had already been groomed. This way, skiers know what types of conditions to expect on their trails and can take the proper precautions as they ski.