Design and Maintenance Guidelines for Groomed Trails for Colorado Cross Country Ski Association
GRADUATE THESIS FOR THE MASTER OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE AND PLANNING UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT DENVER
JEFFREY P. TUPALA
Lauri Johnson, Professor of Landscape Architecture,
Harry L.Qarnham,Landscape Architecture and Urban Design Program Director
Jonathan Wiesel, Nordic Group International, Jackson, Wyoming
I wish to extend my thanks to the following who made this manual possible: Professor Lauri Johnson, John Fisher and Jon Wiesel for their help and guidance; and Ray Coffey for his friendship and attention to my writing.
Many thanks also go to others who took the time to share their experience and insights of cross country skiing with me; and to my late father for putting my feet on skis at the age of five, for this manual would not exist at all without him.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION ............................................ 1
PART I TRAIL DEVELOPMENT .......................... 3
PART II TRAIL DESIGN, PLANNING & CONSTRUCTION ... 5
A. Trail Layout/A1ignment ............... 5
B. Trail Length & Rating ............... 12
C. Trail Tread/Trailway ................ 13
D. Gradient ............................ 20
E. Drainage ............................ 25
PART III TRAIL MAINTENANCE ......................... 33
A. Cutting & Clearing .................. 33
B. Surface Repair ...................... 36
C. Tools ............................... 37
PART IV SNOW GROOMING ............................. 44
A. Snow Grooming Machines .............. 44
B. Snow Grooming Equipment ............. 46
C. Grooming of Tracks and Skating Lanes 54
PART V STRUCTURES ................................ 58
A. Turnpikes ........................... 58
B. Puncheons ........................... 58
C. Bridges ............................. 60
D. Fences .............................. 64
PART VI TRAIL SIGNAGE & MAP ....................... 67
PART VII NIGHT LIGHTED SKIING ................... 72
PART VIII BIATHLON SHOOTING RANGE ................... 77
PART IX BIBLIOGRAPHY .............................. 81
The purpose of this manual on "Design and Maintenance Guidelines for Groomed Trails for Colorado Cross Country Ski Association" is to provide guidelines to all CCCSA members for their cross country ski trail systems.
It is hoped that all the information in this manual would help the CCCSA members to better understand and increase their awareness of how they can design, expand and improve their cross country ski trails to meet the needs and expectations of both beginner and experienced cross country skiers, including the traditional diagonal stride and increasingly popular ski skating techniques. The members will also be assisted by the guidelines on snow grooming.
Well designed, properly groomed cross country ski trails enhance the quality of a cross country skier's experience as well as increasing the participation rate of the cross country skiers, and encouraging them to return again. The properly designed cross country ski trails will also provide safety and reduce the risk of potential liability of cross country skiers.
Information' for this manual was collected from my research of other trail guidelines and manuals; through my personal
experience as a cross country ski trail worker,
ski instructor; and from conversations with operators, groomers, and avid cross country skiers.
Jeff Tupala May, 1988
Developing new cross country ski trails or cross country ski trail systems in Colorado is usually determined by who will use them, whether they are local skiers, out-of-state skiers, ranch guests, and/or alpine skiers from nearby alpine ski areas. The access and distance of travel to the site from principal cities and airports of Colorado are important factors as they can determine the number of skiers who will ski the trails during the weekdays and weekends.
The length of the ski season, climatic conditions and the reliability of the snow can also help the developer to select the site.
Resource features that one should explore and exploit are: terrain, elevation, soil, vegetation, wildlife, historic interests, and visual characteristics.
Trail development begins with an analysis of the site where a potential cross country ski trail or trail system will be constructed. Familiarity and sensitivity to the site are the essence, as these two words are the major consideration for the development of a new trail and/or trail system. The use of topographic maps and aerial photo interpretation maps available from the U. S. Forest Service and Soil Conservation Service, as well as the extensive time spent in
the field, is essential to properly analyze the site. Depending on the extent of the undertaking, an experienced cross country skier or a professional cross country ski trail designer/consultant can provide invaluable input to a developer in the process of decision making regarding the design, planning, and construction of the ski trails or trail systems.
The most important criteria for the developer to keep in mind while in the field are: minimum disturbance of natural environment; skier safety; skier enjoyment; protection of adjacent resources; maximum durability and reliability of ski trail use; maximum aesthetic quality of the site; minimum construction and maintenance costs; and type and size of snow grooming machines and equipment to be used.
Providing a wide variety of quality ski experience for different ability levels of cross country skiers is a good goal for cross country ski trail development. Any existing ski trails should be linked to the new trails, as this will offer cross country skiers some flexibility and a wider choice of trials on which to ski.
II. TRAIL DESIGN, PLANNING AND CONSTRUCTION
When designing a new cross country ski trail system, it is important to consider all ability levels: trails utilizing a variety of terrain ranging from easiest to most difficult will enhance the experience of all levels of cross country skiers. Trails should be designed to accommodate the snow grooming machines and equipment that trail operators expect to use in their area. For example, larger machines, such as Piston Bully 130, will require different trailway dimensions than the smaller machine, such as the Bombardier Alpine snowmobile.
A. Trail Layout/Alignment
Cross country ski trails that are laid out as a loop system are usually the best design as cross country skiers will not need to ski on the same path twice. Interconnected loops should be provided for different levels of skier's experience. Where possible, both one way and two way direction on the loops can be offered depending on the width, length, and degree of difficulty of trails.
Look for naturally rolling terrain with some uphills, flats and downhills (ideally it should be about 1/3 uphill, 1/3 flat and 1/3 downhill) so as to avoid monotonous
repetitions, such as skiing long flat stretches without intriguing curves or requiring skiers to undertake long difficult uphill climbs. Lay out the trails with a variety of visual features such as meadows, forest edges, aspen stands, historic interests, near streams, lakes, rock formations, and other interesting features if possible.
Work with the terrain by following the contours of the site so as to develop gently sweeping rhythmic long curves in both horizontal and vertical alignments. Avoid any interruptions or abrupt changes of direction of sharp curves or steep uphills as the experience of skiing through a natural rolling terrain is much more enjoyable than on a "ragged" trail. Trails should blend well with the natural surroundings and provide a pleasant tunnel effect. Use the terrain and vegetation to screen out any unwanted and unnatural views.
At the beginning of the trail provide a "staging area" or open space near the ski lodge for skiers to congregate, to apply waxes, and to stretch and warm up before skiing off to the trails. Keep the beginning of the trails flat for one or two kilometers before the start of an uphill climb or downhill skiing. This gives skiers the opportunity to warm up and get into rhythmic form.
Design one or two loops for ski instruction. For beginning cross country skiers, consider a short, easy loop of 2 to 3 kilometers with smooth flats for practicing diagonal stride techniques, short moderate uphills for practicing herringbone technique, and gentle, short downhills for practicing snowplowing technique.
For intermediate and more advanced skiers, 5 to 10 kilometers of more difficult trail is ideal as these skiers will be challenged with the longer loop that offers steeper uphills, longer, intriguing curves on both flat and downhill sections for added enjoyment and excitement.
Where trails intersect, the terrain should be flat to control the speed of skiers, with the size of the intersection twice the trail tread width for better traffic control of the skiers. Allow good visibility around the perimeter of the intersection and post signage near the intersection.
Develop trail alignment on north and east facing slopes, as
the snow will last longer than those on the south and west
facing slopes, which are more exposed to the radiation of
the sun. Areas of moderately covered vegetation will retain
the snow better than the areas of sparse vegetation. Avoid
heavy dense conifer stands as snow conditions are poor and
trail tread under these stands is littered with pine needles
When trails cross open fields, such as hay meadows or pastures, align or snake the trail through natural windbreaks, such as sagebrush, shrubs, evergreen trees, earth mounds, and berms to prevent the wind from drifting snow over the tracks and skate lanes. If such natural windbreaks are not available, it may be necessary to erect snow fences, nettings, or other removable structures on the open areas. Constructing permanent fences or planting rows of shrubs, brushes and evergreen trees will prevent snow drifting on open areas where they won't interfere with alternative uses. (See Part V on fences.) If your snowcat is equipped with a hydraulically operated front blade, you can use it to build up snow berms.
On downhill sections of the trail system, provide wide, gradual curves to add some excitement and challenge without danger. Changes of direction should start before, rather than at the end, of a downhill section. Avoid any sharp angles and narrow trails as to minimize the chance of collisions.
The radius of downhill curves should increase as the steepness of the slope increases. Allow plenty of room for snowplowing and to avoid hitting fallen cross country skiers
on the downhill section. Good visibility is important on downhill curves. (See Figure 1)
Construct separate lanes for uphill and downhill sections with islands of trees or shrubs in the center of heavily congested sections. This provides a good two-way traffic control for skier safety.
Construct a bypass on long uphill/downhill sections, as this will give the less experienced skiers an option to ski downhill in control without danger and to make the uphill climb less strenuous. (See Figure 2)
Avoid laying out trails on boggy, wet sections or flat sections with poor drainage. These stretches will be difficult to groom and set tracks and often melt quickly and/or form icy trails. If you have no choice but to go through wet areas, use turnpike or puncheon. (See Part V on turnpike and puncheon construction.)
Golf courses often offer natural rolling terrain suitable for cross country ski trails. The golf turf should be frozen and have enough snow before packing and setting tracks to avoid damage to the turf. Align the ski trails around fenced-off greens and driving ranges. Often ski trails can be set on golf cart paths.
Trail Length and Rating
The length and rating of the cross country ski trails will depend on the size of the area: terrain, snow conditions and reliability; elevation; type of skiers who will use the trails; and the number of skiers that will be expected to ski on the trails.
The length of the trail can be measured by a cyclometer. In the winter you can measure the length by the snowmobile odometer, although a cyclometer is more preferable as it is more accurate than the snowmobile odometer.
RECOMMENDED TRAIL RATING IN PERCENT
Eas iest 30 40%
More Difficult 40 50%
Most Difficult 15 20%
RECOMMENDED DISTANCE IN KILOMETER
Easiest 2.5 5 km
More Difficult 5 10 km
Most Difficult 7.5 15 km
Beginner 2 3 km
Intermediate-Advanced 5 10 km
The trail tread is the groomed surface of the trail, and trailway is the height and width dimension of the trail which is cut and cleared. (See Figure 3)
Soil on trail tread should be stable and well drained and have good ground cover as to prevent severe soil erosion. Well drained and porous soil will retain snow better than poorly drained bare soil. Poorly drained and bare soils usually heat up quickly and cool rapidly, causing snow to thaw and freeze and severe soil erosion can occur during spring snow runoff. Check with U. S. Soil Conservation Service for soil analysis of your area.
Tread surface should be smooth, free of rocks, stumps, humps, and other obstructions to allow for early season skiing with minimum snow cover, for maximum skier safety and to prevent damage to snow grooming machines and equipment. Cut stumps, brushes and saplings flush to the ground and remove any protruding roots, rocks, and fallen logs.
Larger trees with extensive root systems should be removed from trail tread bulldozer blade. Allow at least three feet of stump standing for removal by the bulldozer. Use the blade to fill depressions and level and grade the trail tread.
The width of the trail tread should be determined by whether the trail will be used from diagonal stride, ski skating, or both techniques. The minimum width for skating lanes is 8 feet and for diagonal stride tracks is 4-5 feet per lane. (See Figures 4 and 5)
Be careful when designing trails wider than 12-14 feet as the aesthetic quality of the trail may be affected. Wider trail widths can reduce a pleasant tunnel effect and may produce a "highway" appearance. An alternative for this wide trail is to form two lanes on the same trail tread with an island of trees in the center of the two lanes (buffer zone). Eight feet of skating lane can be constructed on one side and the other side built with 4 to 8 feet for diagonal stride. Allow an open space every 100 to 150 feet to allow skiers to switch over to either lanes. This may be more aesthetically pleasing than 16 to 18 feet "highway" lane. This alternative will work well in the congested sections of the trail system, near the ski lodge and staging area. (See Figure 5)
Uphill and downhill sections should be wider than flat sections (minimum 8 feet) to allow snowplowing and maneuvering on downhill and herringbone, sidestepping and skating u-phill. (See Figure 6)
Single track lane
* center width depends on spacing of tandem tracksetter.
Double track lane
Skate and single track lanes
* can vary from 4 to 8 feet.
Skate and single track lanes with buffer zone
Uphill / Downhill Sections
Skating and Herringbone
High speed downhill curves on the more difficult to most difficult trails should be banked slightly inward with wide longer radius curves and clear visibility from both upper and lower portion of the downhill.
When designing trails, allow at least 7 feet of branch clearance above the average snow depth. Vertical clearance requirements depend on the height of grooming machines to be used on your trail system. The larger machines may require more than 8 feet. All overhanging branches and limbs of trees should be cut flush as to allow natural healing of stubs by bark. Cut branches and limbs all around the tree, not just on the trail side, as the tree trunk will be stronger and longer lasting and more aesthetically pleasing to look at. Provide 1 feet 6 inches clearance on both sides of trail tread as to reduce the hazard of skiers falling on protruding stumps, roots, fallen logs and rocks. (Also see Part II of trail maintenance on cutting and clearing and surface repair )
Any slash from trail cutting should be scattered in the woods and allowed to decompose. Slash can also be piled up in several spots near the trail and be burned by fire when the season's first couple inches of snow have covered on the ground, preventing the fire from spreading out. It may be necessary to check with the Forest Service for fire burning
permits. The disposal of the slash can also improve the summer appearance.
Grading and cutting and filling will be required if trail tread is to be transversed across a hillside. When constructing trail tread on the hillside, cut the upper slope away and move the upper slope cut dirt to the lower fill side. The lower fill side can also be built with natural materials such as rocks and logs. Make the sidehill tread appear more natural by constructing the upper slope in convex shape and the lower slope in concave shape. Care must be taken to retain vegetation to prevent soil erosion. If vegetation cannot be saved, then seed and mulch upper and lower slopes and tread to stabilize the soil. (See Figure 7)
Outslope on tread which is sloping down toward the lower slope should be about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch per foot (1 to 2 percent) This allow the water to slowly drain on the lower side. (See Figure 7)
Gradient is the percent slope in a ratio between the vertical rise and the horizontal run of a trail. (See Figure 8)
Cut and fill slopes on hillside
Degrees and Percent Slope
To determine gradients, an Abney level or clinometer can be used on the field.
As a reference, most alpine ski areas in North America have few slopes that are AO percent or steeper. As a rule of thumb a cross country skier will gain speed without effort on any groomed trail with a grade of 10 percent or more.
For uphill or downhill with gradients greater than 8-12 percent, the trail should be wide enough to allow a skier to snowplow down or herringbone up. Example: eight feet width on downhill or uphill as compared to 6 feet width on the flat section. On some trails, shorter uphill climbs (up to 15 percent per 150 feet) can be used to achieve elevation. This can prevent the monotony of climbing the longer even gradient and add variety to a trail system.
Make sure the grooming machine you will use has the power to climb the steeper trail. Check the vehicle specification for maximum climb in slope percent. Weight of the grooming equipment to be pulled by the machine must also be considered.
From the grade chart below, the maximum speed that a cross country skier can gain will also depend on the snow conditions and the type of waxes used on skis whether
classic or skating skis. Skating skis generally can attain higher speed in shorter length than the classic skis. Use this chart as a reference.
IN PERCENT IN DEGREES MAXIMUM LENGTH IN FEET TO REACH 20 MPH
10 6 250-300
12 7 100-125
15 9 80
20 12 60
25 14 40
30 17 30
* New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
(excerpted from Trail Building and Maintenance 2nd.,
Proudman and Rajala.)
GREATEST SUSTAINED GRADIENT OVER 300 FEET GREATEST SHORT GRADIENT UNDER 100
EASY 7.5 % 10 %
MORE DIFFICULT 20 % 15 %
MOST DIFFICULT 25 %
Gradients in excess of 25 percent can occur on trails for a distance of 35 feet -or less. These steep gradient sections may be better for skiing down hill than climbing up hill as this would probably be too strenuous for most skiers.
CLIMBS AND ELEVATIONS*
GREATEST SINGLE CLIMB ELEVATION DIFFERENCE MAXIMUM TOTAL CLIMB
EASY 35' 100' 150'
MORE DIFFICULT 70' 250' 400'
MOST DIFFICULT 140' 500' 650'
* Forest Service Trails Management Handbook (for 5 km groomed loop)
Trail tread is a natural course for surface water runoff.
If the tread is not properly constructed for proper surface water drainage, the tread will deteriorate due to erosion.
Silting, erosion, or gullying on the trails can be prevented by using different drainage control methods. Diverting surface water by ditches, grade dips, water bars and. culverts will help to reduce the trail tread damage.
Periodic maintenance such as filling ruts, removing obstructions and smoothing the tread will provide better water runoff. In the winter, the snow base will be smoother and level, improving the quality of ski experience.
This method consists of the outer ridge of rutted trails to form small trenches at frequent intervals to allow the drainage of water to the side of the trail tread. (See Figure 9)
Grade dips are sections of 5 to 15 feet of trail tread built with a grade slightly adverse to the prevailing grade of the trail. These are cost effective in controlling erosion and more maintenance free than water bars. Water bars generally are the best method for the upper steep slope. (See Figure 10)
Water bars constructed of rocks or logs are the other method to control trail erosion by reducing the length of time and volume of water running down the slope of the trail tread. They can be installed along the trail tread as needed to slow down the flow of water. Water bars should be installed at 35-45 degree angles, not less than 35 degrees or more than 45 degrees. (See Figure 11)
Log water bar
Water bars made of log must be placed in a trench with over one-half of its diameter below the tread, wedging it with rocks and stakes. Care must be taken with the size and diameter of logs of water bars as they can create ski jumps in the winter. To reduce the "jumps," fill both sides of the log with hay before the first snow in the fall or with snow during the winter and level the hump.
Culverts are pipes or drains used to allow water passage under and across trails. They should be large enough to accommodate normal spring water run off at one-half the height of the pipe. Culverts may be made of steel, concrete, plastic or other suitable materials and should be no smaller than 12 inches in diameter to reduce plugging and to make clear-out easier. Also, they should be no larger than 4 feet in diameter to keep height down and level with the trail tread. Multiple pipes can be used instead of one large culvert. Allow a minimum of 2 percent and maximum of 5 percent pitch when installing culverts and place rocks and dirts on both sides of the culvert to prevent erosion.
(See Figure 12)
The spacing of the water bars, dips and other drainage structures to intercept running water down the slope of the trail tread is influenced by the soil type and grade which affects water velocity.
SPACING OF DRAINAGE STRUCTURES** (Water bars, Grade Dip,
Material Type 2 4 Grade in Percent 6 8 10 12 15
Loam 350' 150' 100' 75 ' 50' * *
Clay-Sand 500' 350' 200' 150' 100' 50' *
Clay-Grave 1 500' 300' 200' 150' 100' 75
Gravel - - 750' 500' 350 250' 150'
Angular Rock - - 800' 600' 400 300' 250'
Sand Varies with local amounts of fine clay and
silt. Drainage diversions generally are not required in "pure" sand because of the fast rate of water absorption. For sand with appreciable amounts of fine binder material, use "clay-sand" distances as shown above.
Grades not recommended in this material.
Generally no diversion required for soil stability.
U. S. Forest Trails Management Handbook.
Trail maintenance in the off season should become part of the cross country ski operation as it is a good practice to keep the trails in excellent condition for winter cross country skiing. Trails that are maintained periodically will give the least problems, are more cost effective, and offer a better quality of cross country ski experience to all skiers. Well prepared and maintained ski trails can give good skiing in winter when the snowfall is marginal.
The managers/operators of the ski centers should plan part of their operations budget for annual pre-season trail maintenance. A person who is familiar with the trail system will generally do the best job of maintaining the trails in the fall.
A. Cutting and Clearing
Any tree limbs and branches extending on to the trails that are dying or dead should be removed by cutting limbs flush to the branches, and branches to the tree trunk. Also remove any branches that appear weak and may bend and break down under the weight of the snow. Removal of broken and dead limbs and branches will not only improve the appearance of the trees, eliminate breeding sites for insects and
protect against disease and prevent premature loss, but also
reduce the risk of injury to cross country skiers and damages to snow grooming machines and equipment. (See Figure 13)
New brush and shrubs will grow each year as sunlight is able to penetrate the cleared trailway, allowing the heat of the sun to stimulate growth. Any new undergrowth which obstructs trailway should be removed after the first frost but before the first snowfall. The undergrowth should be cut flush to the ground to allow early season skiing.
Dispose the cut undergrowth by scattering them in the woods or by burning. Herbicidal spraying of the stumps on the trail tread will help prevent regrowth and sprouting of the undergrowth. Use the improved herbicides only on the stumps of the trail tread, not outside the perimeter of the trailway. The spraying is best done in the early spring before the start of new undergrowth.
If you must cut limbs or branches during the winter, don't leave the debris of sawdust and bark on the top of groomed trails as more snow will accumulate throughout the season. Once the snow starts to melt in the late season, the debris will be exposed and may stick to skier's sticky klister waxes and adversely affect the skis ability to glide. Thus it is best to remove the debris as completely as possible from the trail and scatter it in the woods.
A smooth trail tread free of rocks, stumps, roots, depressions and other obstructions offers a longer ski season, reduces the hazard of risk and injury to skiers and damage to snow grooming machines and equipment.
The trail base should be formed by building up rather than cutting down during the pre-season maintenance. Any holes, ruts and deep depressions produced by snow grooming machine treads, heavy spring water runoff and other natural causes should be filled up to tread level with dirt, grass-seeded and covered by mulches. This practice will help to prevent bad falls and broken skis.
Bare soils or "hot spots" should be grass-seeded and covered with mulches. Bare soil warms up and cools more rapidly than those covered with vegetation or with artificial covers. Frost penetration during the winter is considerably greater on bare, uninsulated trail tread, causing poor snow retention and icy conditions.
Artificial covers that can be used are sawdust, wood chips, hay, horse and cow manures and dead leaves.
Various types of tools are needed for trail construction and maintenance. Each tool has a specific purpose. With the right kind of tool, trail workers do a better and more efficient job of constructing and maintaining the trails.
When buying tools, get the best quality. In the long run, they will last longer and do better quality work on the trails.
1. Single and double bit axe
2. Pruning saw
3. Pole saw
A. Long handled pruner
5. Swizzle stick
Single and double bit axes are used for cutting shrubs, brush, tree limbs and branches, falling trees and cutting and constructing water bars, puncheons, bridges and other wood structures. Keep the axe blades sharp as they will cut the wood more efficiently, are safer to use and will help the trail workers to do better quality work. (See Figure 1A)
Double bit axe
Single bit axe
The pruning saw is used for sawing large branches from standing trees and for sawing saplings and small diameter trees flush to the ground. (See Figure 14)
A pole saw is a long handled tool with a curved saw blade and is used for sawing large diameter overhead limbs and branches of standing trees. (See Figure 14)
Long handled pruner and pole clipper are excellent tools for trimming limbs and small branches of standing trees. A long handled pruner can also be used for cutting brushes and shrubs. (See Figure 15)
A swizzle stick is used for clearing brush and low undergrowth on the trail tread. The trail worker swings it like a golf club to cut brush and undergrowth. (See Figure 15)
Shovels are used for digging, filling and moving dirt and snow. A mattock is a heavy tool with two edges and is used
loose from the trail tread. (See Figure
for prying rocks 16)
Long handled pruner
Double swizzle stick
Single swizzle stick
Power brush cutter
A pulaski is a single bit axe with a small grub hoe blade and is used for grubbing and cutting. (See Figure 16)
Power Cutting Tools
2. Power brush cutter
A chainsaw is one of the best tools for trail work. It is very efficient for cutting down trees and cutting branches on fallen trees. The smaller lightweight chainsaw is the most common and popular size for trail work. The small size is easier to operate and more efficient than the larger heavier chainsaw. If you are going to do a lot of cutting of large trees for a long period of time, then the larger chainsaw may be superior. The chain must be kept sharp and well oiled for efficient cutting. Chain should be checked, tightened and sharpened periodically.
A power brush cutter is a gasoline-driven tool with a small circular cutting blade and is used for cutting seasonal growth of small brushes and shrubs. (See Figure 16)
3. Splitting wedge A. Files
A "come-a-long" with a chain or cable is a practical tool for many trail construction and maintenance chores. It can be used for moving rocks, fallen trees and for pulling out snowmobiles stuck in the deep snow. (See Figure 16)
A sledge hammer is used for pounding in fence posts, stakes, etc., and to split wood with a splitting wedge.
A splitting wedge is a small tool used to split wood with the sledge hammer. It can be also used to free a bound chainsaw blade from the notch of the tree trunk.
Files can be used to sharpen many cutting tools. It can sharpen the axe blades, pruner, swizzle stick and chainsaw chain. Use the right type and size of files for sharpening each cutting tool.
IV. SNOW GROOMING
Snow grooming on the trails for cross country skiing is an art that takes a lot of practice and commitment. Trail groomers must have patience and take pride in their work to produce high quality groomed cross country ski trails.
Trail grooming may be needed at any hour of the day or night as snow falls at any time. Managers and machinery operators need to work out some kind of flexible work schedule. Groomers who are working on the basis of a rigid 8:00 to 4:30 type schedule may do an adequate job, but it may not be good enough to meet cross country skiers' high expectations. A cross country ski center that considers trail grooming as one of the priorities of their ski operations can attract more skiers and repeat skiers, build the area's reputation for high quality of tracks and skate lanes will justify the cost of their trail fees. This is often the secret to a successful ski center.
A. Snow Grooming Machines
Many different sizes and types of oversnow vehicle are available for pulling grooming equipment, ranging from a small single track snowmobile to a large snowcat with state-of-the-art equipment. Cross country ski operators will need
to consider several factors in selecting the grooming machines to meet their needs, in terms of the number of skiers per day, size of the area, amount of snowfall, types of snow and the availability of funds to purchase or lease, operate and maintain the grooming machine and equipment.
The single track snowmobile, first introduced in the early 1960's has historically been the most widely used machine for trail grooming and tracksetting. It has been a very efficient machine in those early days, and it continues to be useful today for any small ski trail loops operated by ski club, etc. However, with the current trend of larger ski centers with various loops of tracks and skating lanes, a demand for bigger and more powerful machine has evolved to pull heavier grooming equipment. The single track snowmobile can be efficiently used by trail workers for trail maintenance chores and other tasks associated with operation of cross country ski centers. Ski patrollers can use it for reaching an injured skier on the larger trail system.
The double track snowmobile such as the Bombardier Ski Doo Alpine or Grizzly Aktiv is a workhorse with low speed, high torque drive. Most ski centers have this type of snowmobile today. Depending on snow conditions, it has the capability to pull a six foot roller and set double tracks with twin
track setter. It is more stable and gives better traction than the single track snowmobile. (See Figure 17)
A step above the double track snowmobile are the "small" sized snowcat, machines like the Excel Hustler 440 or Bombardier BR-100 that is capable of performing various tasks. These can pull heavy grooming equipment and set tracks in one operation, plow and push snow, climb steeper slopes, and cover more terrain than the snowmobiles. The driver operates the machine inside a comfortable cab.
The larger, heavier and more sophisticated grooming machines that generally are found on the alpine ski slopes are beginning to appear on many of the large scale cross country ski trail systems today. Machines such as the Piston Bully 130, LMC 3700D, and Tucker 2000 are being used for grooming wider and longer trails and can operate powered snow tiller and other hydraulically operated grooming equipment. (See Figure 17)
B. Snow Grooming Equipment
Many different types of grooming equipment are available today for preparing cross country ski trails for track skiing and ski skating. Three types of tasks in trail grooming are consolidating (packing) the snow base;
Double track snowmobile
Large grooming snowcat equipped with hydraulic compactor
conditioning of the snow surface; and setting tracks. Each of these tasks requires different grooming equipment.
A roller or packer is a steel culvert with both ends welded with circular steel plates and a towing bar is attached to it. It is commonly used to pack snow into a level base throughout the trails. (See Figure 18)
The compactor bar is a flat stationary tray that doesn't roll but packs the snow by using a snow machine with hydraulic down-pressure which can apply various compression on the snow by raising or lowering the tray. Compacting snow and setting tracks can all be done in one operation with this grooming equipment. (See Figure 18)
A grader grooming frame or mogul planer consists of cutting and leveling blades and is used for grading the trails, removing the bumps and drifts, milling and rolling new snow and breaking up crust snow. (See Figure 19)
The gyro groomer is a loosely bolted frame with two C-shaped shears. It mills and conditions the dry powder snow at high velocity into an aged snow crystal with higher moisture
content. It also can do an excellent job of shaving off
bumps and drifts. (See Figure 19)
The snow tiller or disc scarifier is used to dig up and dry out (aerate) wet snow, allow water to percolate downward and to create more surface area for removal of moisture by the wind. It also is used for tearing up hard packed snow, boiler plate (ice), and crusty and icy snow. The tiller consists of spiked wheels attached to axle frames and disc scarifier has sharp circular blades attached to the axle. Both can be operated manual or hydraulic powered by the larger snowcat engine. There is also a pull/ground type tiller. (See Figure 20)
The powder maker is similar to the roller except that the roller is made of open metal screen instead of solid steel culvert. It is used for breaking up large chunks of loose snow left behind grader, harrow drag, or the track treads of the snowcat, and also for packing and conditioning the new dry snow. It leaves behind an aesthetically pleasing trail surface. (See Figure 20)
A flexible harrow drag is used to dig up old snow and mix with the new dry powder snow. This harrow drag works well when the snow is too dry to be packed by the roller. It can be used to break up crusty snow. (See Figure 21)
Power tiller with hydraulically operated tracksetters
Flexible harrow drag
Tracksetting (See Figure 21)
Two types of tracksetters are currently available:
1. Cutting or shearing tracksetter
2. Molding tracksetter
A cutting tracksetter cuts and throws excess snow off to the side while the molding tracksetter compresses the snow to mold the tracks. Cutting tracksetters are commonly attached to compactor or tiller while the molding tracksetter can only be used as a single unit.
C. Grooming of Tracks and Skating Lanes
The majority of Colorado's ski centers are located at an elevation of 8,000 feet and above. The snow at this high elevation is generally dry and light with a low moisture content and a tendency to resist compaction. It is more difficult to create a firm base with dry snow than snow with a good moisture content. This can pose a problem for setting up a hard and fast skating lane.
Skating can be destructive on groomed trails, as skating skis exert more shearing force on the snow base than the diagonal stride in the tracks lane. Preparing a skating lane may take more work and is more time consuming than
setting tracks as several passes by grooming machines are generally required over the wider skating lanes for packing and conditioning the snow into a hard firm base. Skating will be faster and much more enjoyable on hard consistent snow surface, and it will enhance the skater's experience. Soft snow causes a skater's skis to plow and cave in under the snow, slowing speed and forcing skaters to work harder. This can be exhausting, especially if poles sink deeply into the snow, too.
Tracks lane requires the same patience and work as in setting the skate lane. Setting tracks is best done on a well conditioned snow base. Allow at least a foot of firm base on both sides of tracks for solid pole planting. When pulling the track setter with a grooming machine, don't drive the machine faster than 5 mph to insure straight tracks and to produce good depth of track grooves. Driving too fast will result in weaving tracks and in-sufficient depth of track grooves, especially on curves.
If you have trouble setting tracks on hard base, some extra weights such as cinder blocks, rocks, etc. can be placed on the top of cutting tracksetter, allowing it to cut deeper into the hard snow.
Generally the best time to pack, condition, and set tracks is near the end of the day, starting around 2:00 p.m. when cross country skiers will start to leave. Most of the skiers will be off the trails by 4:00 to 4:30 p.m. Grooming during the late afternoon and early evening before the next day produces a more reliable and longer lasting snow surface. Snow is usually softer, warmer and easier to work at that time; and by midnight when the grooming job is done, the cold night temperatures will harden and cure the consolidated snow.
To pack the snow with a roller, the air temperature should be between 15 degrees and 25 degrees Fahrenheit, with humidity of 60 percent or less. Snow doesn't pack well in colder temperature as it is too dry and light to be compressed by the roller. Wet snow in temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit and above will cause the snow to cling to the roller. It is best to wait for the air temperature to drop and for the wind to dry out the wet snow. You can use the tiller to aerate the wet snow if the weather is going to stay warm for a long period of time.
Trails should be packed for every six inches of snow that falls during a heavy snowstorm. It is better to form a single solid consolidated base than several layers of snow base with air pockets. If you wait until it stops snowing,
it will be more difficult to form a single firm, even base. Don't drive at excessive speed when pulling the roller as it will oscillate, causing an uneven base to form.
When the air temperature is cold and the snow dry, the roller will not be able to pack or compact the snow well.
For these conditions the grader, gyro groomer, powder maker, or harrow drag can be used to pack and condition the snow.
By conditioning the snow, moisture will be introduced into the snow crystals, resulting in "aged" snow with good moisture content. Snow with an adequate moisture content will pack much better than snow with very little moisture content. Track setting should start immediately after packing and conditioning while there is still free moisture in the snow. Track grooves won't "set up" well when there is no moisture. It is often helpful to set up colored bamboo poles on edge of trails for snowcat operators, as these markers can guide the drivers during the snowstorm or at night when visibility may be poor.
It takes practice and experimentation to find the best way to groom your particular trails as snow and climatic conditions can vary widely everyday. By maintaining your machinery in good condition, and using the right grooming equipment to prepare the snow base, the result is many happy skiers complimenting on your job well done.
All trail structures should be designed to blend into natural surroundings, using native materials if possible, as they can enhance the appearance of the trail corridor.
Turnpikes can help solve problems of trail crossings over marshy areas that become wet and slushy during warm days and icy during cold days. Materials from parallel side ditches may be used to build up the trail base above the level of marsh. Imported soil can be used as additional material to build a firm and solid base. Retaining materials (curbs) such as small native logs, railroad ties or rocks along the edges will increasingly preserve the life of the turnpike. The curbs can also help to retain the snow. The width of the turnpike should accommodate the maximum width of the snow grooming machines and grooming equipment. Set up markers along the edges for guidance of snow groomers. (See Figure 22)
The puncheon is an alternate to the turnpike. Sawed, treated timber or native logs are used to elevate the trail
tread above the wet areas that are not feasible to drain.
The puncheon consists of wood decking or planks laid on stringers which set sills at 3 feet center. The deck should be leveled and constructed well to hold the snow. Allow a one inch gap between planks of the deck for drainage of snow in the spring. The deck should be spiked securely to the stringers and the stringers must be structurally strong enough to support the weights of the grooming machine and grooming equipment. The width of the puncheon must accommodate the maximum width of the snow grooming machine and equipment. As with turnpike, set up post markers on the edges of the puncheon for guidance of snow groomers.
(See Figure 23)
Construction of bridge may be best for crossing over streams or rivers that flows year-round. Safety of the skiers and trail groomers is an important consideration of bridge design. The bridge must be structurally designed to support the maximum weight and width of the snow grooming machine and grooming equipment plus accumulated snow and ice.
A bridge can be built of wood, aluminum or steel. A weathering steel bridge can give a rustic appearance and may
be better than a wooden bridge in a heavy-use area. Steel bridges are generally maintenance free and vandal-proof than wooden bridges.
Building the bridge at the narrowest point of the stream or, if possible, set up at least one or two feet above the high water mark. The gradient of the bridge should be flat enough for safe controlled speed of skiers crossing over the stream or river.
The base or sills which support the stringers of the bridge must be placed firmly on the bank or abutment, far enough from the edge of the stream to allow natural erosion.
Allow at least a 4 foot high railing on both side of edges for guidance and safety of both snow groomers and skiers. Curbs or kickboards should be built on each edge of the bridge for retaining the snow.
The decking of the bridge should be tight enough to retain accumulated snow and still allow drainage of snow in the spring. Allow one inch gap between planks of the deck and nail the deck perpendicular to stringers. (See Figure 24)
Many types of fences are available for different purposes on cross country ski trail systems.
When building permanent fences, try to design them to compliment and blend well with the natural surroundings.
A buck and pole fence is a rustic and ranch style log pole structure that can be effectively used for protection of fragile environmental areas, historic interests, and protection of prepared tracks and skate lanes from drifting snow. To construct a buck and pole fence, use 10 to 12 foot poles of 3 to A inches of diameter and spike them securely to bucks. Rough 2" x 6" wood planks can also be used in place of poles. This type of fence will blend well on pasture land. It can be removed in the off-season for permitting entrance of livestock on pasture land. (See Figure 25)
A worm fence is a permanent structure often found on horse and cattle fields. It is a good sturdy rustic fence that will prevent snow drifting and it compliments well with the surroundings of the ranches. (See Figure 25)
Nylon mesh type or durethene snow fence that is often found in alpine ski areas can be used on open fields for effective
Buck and Pole Fence
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control of snow drifting. This type can be installed at the beginning of ski season and removed at the end of the ski season. It is easily rolled and stored away. The nylon or durethene snow fence can be held up by fiberglass or aluminum poles which are placed in snow or dirt.
Wooden snow fence is another type that can control snow drifting on the open field. Steel posts are needed to hold the wooden fence in place.
VI. TRAIL SIGNAGE AND MAP
The trail signage and map play an important role for a cross
country ski trail system as they serve many purposes.
The purposes of trail signage and maps are to:
1. Identify the trail by name and degree of difficulty (easiest, more difficult, most difficult).
2. Give the distance of loops of trails in kilometers.
3. Identify historic sites, landmarks and interesting points.
A. Give information as to the skiers' location at
trailheads and intersections. (You are here map).
5. Give direction of travel (one way or two way).
6. Identify whether the trail is for skating, diagonal stride or both diagonal stride and skating.
7. Warn cross country skiers of steep, icy slopes (caution sign) .
8. Indicate that trail is closed (do not enter).
Signs should be durable, easy to read and professional
looking. Non professional signs reduce the aesthetic quality of the trail system.
A National standard sign adopted by U.S.F.S., U.S.S.A. and
C.C.S.A.A. are available for cross country ski centers.
These signs are durable and low in cost. The national
standard signs can be purchased through:
Cross Country Ski Areas of America
Rd. 2 Bolton Road
Winchester, New Hampshire 03451
Designation of difficulty signs should be based on the trail's difficulty relative to other trails at the cross country ski center's trail system only. (See Figure 26)
Description of difficult signs:
Easiest -- a green circle on a white background,
with a gently waving white stripe bisecting the circle.
More Difficult -- a blue square on a white background with
an exaggeratedly curved white stripe bisecting the square.
Most Difficult a black diamond on a white background,
with a white zigzag bisecting the diamond.
The types of signs that identify trail name, direction, distance, information and point of interest can be custom-made by trail workers. The most common type is a wooden routed sign. A router is used to lettering cut into the
Easiest More Most
A Caution One way 0 Trail Closed
No pets! Skating Lane No skating
wood sign. The wood of the sign can be stained and coated with polyurethane, with the letters painted in color enamel The routed sign is more time consuming to fabricate but it is far more professional looking and aesthetically pleasing than a poor, hastily made sign.
When nailing signs to trees the heads of nails sticking tree growth. If you do not the nail, causing the sign
, use out 1 the or mar
aluminum nails /4 to 1/2 inch tree will grow ker to fold up
and leave to allow for outward over
Hang the sign or marker at level of the snow base.
least five feet above the highest
A trail map is a necessity for cross country skiers provides direction, distance, degree of difficulty, of facilities, points of interest and other useful information.
as it location
The map should be clear, easy to read and accurate, should be durable, compact in size and foldable for cross country skiers to carry in their pocket.
It also the
On the map, with degree
provide color of difficulty
lines in dash, dot or solid line symbols, legend and north arrow.
Also describe the characters of each trail loop and distance covered by the loop.
An attractive, high quality designed, colorful trail map can be used as an excellent advertising tool than a map that is photocopied. The cost to produce the high quality is more, but in the long run it can greatly enhance the image of the cross country ski center. The map may also be incorporated into the cross country ski center's brochure.
NIGHT LIGHTED SKIING
Given easy market access, night lighted skiing can attract many more cross country skiers as it offers them an opportunity to ski after work hours. Night lighted skiing can increase profits to cross country centers that are located close to populated towns and cities and alpine ski areas. It can also be set up on golf courses.
Trail length for night lighted skiing should average between 2.5 to 5 kilometers. The longer the distance, the more costly it will be to set up and maintain the lighting system.
Such trails should be located on gentle or easy to moderately difficult terrain. The trails should be wide enough for both skating and single track lanes or double track lane, depending on the types of skiers who will use the lighted trails. The curves of the trails should be wide, more gradual and well lighted.
One way traffic is best for the lighted skiing, as it offers better traffic control and reduces the hazard of colliding into other skiers due to skier's reduced vision at night.
A well designed lighting system on the trails will provide good light distribution with low glare off the snow.
Trails with lights that are too infrequent or poorly located don't enhance cross country skier's experience.
The height of the permanent light fixture poles should be at 20 to 30 feet with the distance between poles at between 80 to 160 foot intervals, depending on the type and size and wattage of light fixtures. The pole should be placed on the outside edge of the trail tread so that they do not present hazards to cross country skiers and snow grooming machines. The aesthetic quality of the trails can be enhanced by using underground power lines rather than overhead lines. Use wooden poles that blend well with the natural surroundings. Removable light fixtures of 3 foot height post can also be used for cross country skiing on a golf course.
Five different types of lighting systems are available for setting up along the trails. The five types are: outdoor bulbs, floodlights, metal halides, high pressure and low pressure sodium lights.
Outdoor bulbs with 10 to 100 watts are the least costly method of erecting lighting along the trails. They can be strung between trees, along existing structures, or tripods or stakes. The bulbs will need to be replaced more
frequently than the other types of lighting system.
Floodlights with 150 to 300 watts provide more lighting than the outdoor bulbs. Floodlights can attach to 20 foot permanent poles or trees. Floodlights should be spaced at 80 foot intervals, with additional lighting needed on wide flat curve sections and on downhill sections. These lights offer good color quality.
Metal halide lights give good color qualities and better illumination than the previous types of lighting system. Poles should be spaced at 100 to 160 feet apart. This is a good system for downhill sections of the trails.
High pressure sodium lights produce the same light illumination as the metal halides but not as good color qualities. They are more energy efficient than metal halides. Spacing of poles should at 100 to 160 feet intervals.
Low pressure sodium lights are more energy efficient than any other lighting systems, but produce poor color qualities. This system produces low glare which is best for flat sections of cross country ski trails. Poles should be spaced at 100 to 160 feet intervals.
The light fixtures can extend 2 to 3 feet from the poles but not more than 3 feet as to reduce glare off the snow. Aim the lights down to the trails at no greater than 45 degrees. (See Figure 27)
BIATHLON SHOOTING RANGE
Biathlon shooting ranges can be erected near the cross country ski center trail system as a means of offering an alternative in ski activity besides the diagonal striding or skating around the trails. Cross country skiers with small bore rifles or air rifles can participate in biathlon as long as they consider the safety of other cross country skiers skiing nearby.
A biathlon shooting range is constructed for rifle shooting in the prone and standing positions at targets which are 50 meters (165 feet) from the front of the shooting ramp. The range should be located in a remote flat section with a natural backstop slope behind the targets, a distance away from the congested sections of the trails, facilities and other structures. It must be buffered well with trees and other vegetations as to muffle the sound of rifle shooting and to provide protection from the wind and drifting snow. Warning and description signs should be erected near the range with the description sign describing the safety rules of the biathlon.
Wooden snow fence or nylon or durethene snow fence with warning signs should be placed around the perimeter of the biathlon shooting range to prevent cross country skiers or spectators from entering the range.
The shooting range should be built with side berms, a natural backstop slope and high screen fence that enclose the shooting range. The side berms are to be constructed of stoneless materials, be at least 2.5 meters (8 feet) in height. The backstop, the purpose of which is to stop the bullets, must be at least 3.8 meters (12.5 feet) in height, made from stoneless materials (earth dirt without rocks).
The width of the shooting lane with a ramp is 2.5 meters (8.25 feet) and the shooting ramp must be solid and level, consisting of earth dirts and be covered with snow in the winter. One meter (3.3 feet) from the front of the shooting ramp, it may slope downward up to 10 percent. Allow at least 7.5 meters (25 feet) width of fenced off zone behind the shooting ramp for biathletes to ski in and out the shooting range. About 3 meters (10 feet) of coaches' and spectators' area may be placed behind the fenced off zone and slightly rising to the rear. (See Figure 28)
Four different types of targets are used for practice and competition shooting:
1. Paper targets with five aiming marks.
2. Mechanical falling plate or knock-down targets.
3. Targets of easily breakable material.
4. Metal discs inserted into cardboard frames.
natural backstop slope
More information on biathlon range and international rule books are available from United States Biathlon Association. Contact:
P. 0. Box 5515
Essex Junction, Vermont 05453
Borowski, Lee, Central Division Grooming Guide, Brookfield, Wisconsin, 1986.
Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, Trail Construction Guidelines, Denver, Colorado, 1981.
Cross Country Ski Areas of America, USA Operations Manual, Brattleboro, Vermont, 1985.
Cross Country Ski Areas of America, Cross Country Ski Area Operations Survey, Winter 1985-1986, Brattleboro, Vermont, 1983.
Ontario Ski Council, Cross Country Ski Trail and Facility
Design Manual, Willowdale, Ontario, Canada, 2nd. 1987.
Proudman, Robert, and Rajala, Reuben, AMC Field Guide to Trail Building and Maintenance, Appalachian Mountain Club, Boston, Maine, 2nd ed., 1981.
Rutledge, Albert J., Anatomy of a Park, McGraw-Hill, New York, New York, 1971.
State of Minnesota, DNR, Trail Maintenance Manual, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1972.
State of Wisconsin, DNR, Trail Specifications Handbook, Madison, Wisconsin, 1982.
U.S.D.A. Forest Service, National Forest Landscape Management: Volume 2, Chapter 7: Ski Areas,
Washington, D.C., 1984.
U.S.D.A. Forest, Planning Considerations for Winter Sports Resort Development, Washington, D.C., 1985.
U.S.D.A. Forest Service, Trails Management Handbook, Washington, D.C., 1985.
United States Ski Association, Cross Country Citizen Racing, An Organizer's Manual, Brattleboro, Vermont, 1981.
GRADUATE THESIS FOR THE MASTER OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE AND PLANNING UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT DENVER
JEFFREY P. TUPALA
Lauri Johnson , Professor of Landscape Architecture,
Harry L. Garnham, Landscape Architecture and Urban Design Program Director
John Fisher, C Lazy U Ranch, Granby, Colorado
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