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Old 02-20-2014, 10:54 AM   #1
Snow VP
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Location: St. Ignace
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Default Meeting a Groomer - Proper Etiquette

OK, probably preaching to the choir here, but lets review what the proper things to do when you encounter a groomer on the trail. It is amazing the number of people just don't know what to do when they see a big machine with blinking lights on it.

Rules may very a little from club to club, but these are some good general rules and procedures. I bring this up now because the base on the trails out there is still very deep, and off trail is soft and deep. The very outside of the trails is not packed as hard as the center where the tracks area, and it does not take much to get on of these machines stuck, and if that happens at best we could be there for a couple hours getting it out, at worst we will break something costing money and grooming delays.

Always remember, the groomer has absolute Right of Way, no exceptions. For the most part all of the drivers out there are volunteers, so please make their lives as easy as possible. If every sled they encounter would help out, it can shorten their daily run considerably.

So if you are riding a fresh ribbon, you can expect that there may be a groomer up ahead of you. As soon as you see the groomer, slow down and gather up your entire group of riders. After you gather your entire group then you can approach the groomer. Don't ride right on the pan, hang back a little and just pace along. Please don't swerve around or roost up the new ribbon as bumps you are creating will freeze in and may become a hazard to your fellow riders. Now you are pacing along behind the drag, you may be there for a short time while the driver notices you, and then looks for a good spot for you to safely pass. The driver probably knows the trail better then you do, and may elect to bring you to the next trail intersection or stop sign several miles down the trail. Please be patient, you will be on your way shortly. Once the groomer finds a suitable place, he will roll to a stop, and you should wait to get the wave around, or he will flash his lights, then proceed to drive around the groomer. For clubs like ours, we will lift a wing so you can get by, some clubs without drag wings will pull over just a little, and you will either squeeze by, or you will drive off trail in an opening to get around.

Now, if you are coming down the trail and you see a groomer off in the distance, the take action now! Immediately start looking for a place to get completely off the trail. Remember the groomer has the Right of Way, so you need to help out as much as possible. Quickly gather your group and find an open spot to pull off. I always recommend turning harder and driving off trail rather then just trying to pull off the ribbon a little, as what usually happens is the sled will tip down into the soft snow and you will fall off and be stuck. If you drive off and stop, then after the groomer passes drive back on at more of a right angle you have a better chance of getting on-trail without incident. Now if the trail is very narrow (usually RR Grades) and you are approaching the groomer and there is just no place for you to get off, then you have to make a decision, will you quickly turn around (not good for big groups) and back-track and find a suitable place to park? Not an option? OK, then approach the groomer and stop several hundred feet away hopefully on the widest part of the trail that you can find, pull over as far to the side as possible, and group your sleds tightly together. Never drive all the way up to the blade, (this really ticks the drivers off) as you have to give the driver a chance to get things setup for your pass. Some clubs will then squeeze the groomer around you as you are parked there, if there is enough room. I prefer to have my groomer come to a complete stop, lift a wing, and then wave you through. Either way, watch for the groomer driver to let you know. NEVER overtake a groomer on the inside of a corner unless expressly told to do so, and never when the groomer is moving! Many times the drag will slid down to the inside of the turn, even if it looks like there is space there now, it may close up FAST!

In either instance, meeting at the front or rear, do not expect the groomer to pull off trail so you can get by, these are heavy machines, and if they get off the hard pack, there is a real possibility that they will get stuck. Take your SNOWMOBILE off trail to go around, if it gets stuck it is a whole lot easier to get a sled unstuck then a 30t groomer. Also, each club may have a different policy, but if you get stuck during a groomer pass, and you are riding alone my driver will offer assistance. If you are traveling in a group we will assume that you have enough help to take care of it and move on.

Please always keep in mind that these guys are out on usually 6 to sometimes 12-14 hour runs. Every time they encounter a sled and have to stop it adds several minutes to their run as they have to let you by, then many times back-up and reset their drags to continue on. If it is not done correctly they will leave a hazard in the trail, so the absolute best thing is if they don't have to stop at all.

Get out of the way, and help out the groomer drivers that are making the trail better for your ride, and as always give them the big thumbs up!

Thanks for your help!
-- Neil
VP Straits Area Snowmobile Club
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Old 02-20-2014, 11:54 AM   #2
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Location: Celina, OH
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Default Re: Meeting a Groomer - Proper Etiquette

Good post Neil. I hope lots of riders take the time to read this and pay attention to it. Makes it better for ALL of us!
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Old 02-20-2014, 02:01 PM   #3
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Default Re: Meeting a Groomer - Proper Etiquette

Good post.
I asked a MSA (i think it was V.P. at the time) if this is taught in the snowmobile class. He was not sure if it was. This should be one of the first things they need to learn.
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Old 02-21-2014, 07:11 PM   #4
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Join Date: Feb 2013
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Default Re: Meeting a Groomer - Proper Etiquette

Great info Neil! It helps to know what groomers expect so riders can be predictable.
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