What Does a Snow Groomer Do? [Video]


Snow groomers are typically used for manipulating snow to create and maintain smooth snowmobile trails, ski slopes, and cross country ski trails. Simply put, they are a special type of snowcat built for snow maintenance. When the machine works, it moves, flattens, and packs the snow to improve trail conditions. If regular snow groomers are not available, trails are often groomed by ATVs and tractors as well.

If you would like to learn more about groomers, you are in the right place. We at PowerSportsGuide have compiled the key facts about these amazing machines into this snow groomer review!

What Are Snow Groomers Called?

Snow groomers are often called snowcats since they belong to this family. However, snow groomers are also known as:

  • trail groomers
  • piste machines
  • piste bashers
  • pisten bullies
  • ratraks

This is because in British English ski slopes are often referred to as “pistes.” (This name has French origins, where skiing is quite popular. Thus, you can find many groomers in the Alps!)

How do Snow Grooming Machines Work?

A snow groomer is powered by a diesel engine and moves on large tracks. It also features a heated cabin for the driver. The groomer moves, flattens, and compacts snow and removes ice and snow piles from the trails. The result is a nicely groomed and hard-packed surface behind the vehicle. Additionally, a groomer can also move fresh snow to the icy spots and high-traffic areas.

Snow groomers are primarily built to maintain snowmobile and ski slopes, but they can also build half pipes and snowboard “fun parks” as well, with special accessories.

The main advantage of snow groomers is their low centre of gravity, which means they can handle very steep slopes.  Another key feature of these machines is the tracks’ large contact area, which results in a surprisingly low ground pressure.

Thanks to their mobility, groomers can go anywhere that other vehicles can’t. That’s why they are used for many other purposes besides snow maintenance. They can move bulk goods with ease and run on peat bogs without any issues.

Thus, they are used for agricultural purposes as well.

Let’s drill into the nitty-gritty, and see how a snow groomer works!

How Do Snow Groomers Work?

It’s safe to say that every dedicated snow groomer runs on two large tracks. They are made of durable rubber and metal and are big enough to disperse the weight of the machine on the surface.

The tracks are driven by the drive wheels and supported by the guide wheels.

Snow groomers are also equipped with a dozer blade. which is often called a front shovel as well. When the groomer moves the snow is pushed ahead of it by this hydraulically-operated blade. In this way, the blade continuously cuts and levels the snow in front of the machine.

Another key part of groomers is the tiller (or power tiller), which is designed for grinding compacted snow and ice. Simply put, the tiller is a corkscrew-shaped cylinder mounted on the rear of the machine and covered by a bracket known as snow cover.

Whether this snow cover is used or not is always dependent on snow conditions. In soft snow the operator leaves the cover wide open to increase speed and avoid ice and snow build-ups.

But this cover should be kept closed if the snow is firm. This is because the ice chunks can be more effectively tilled inside the cover.

This simple addition doesn’t look like an important part of the machine, but its settings can heavily affect the quality of the surface. Thus, snow groomer operators have to keep their eye on snow conditions at all times.

Last but not least, we can’t forget about the smoother, which is a flat blade dragged behind the tiller. As its name implies, it smooths the crunched-up snow and ice pieces and cuts those nice carves into the surface.

If you check a ski slope in the morning before it opens, you can see these small uniform lines on the surface, which the groomers leave behind!

Snow Groomer Winches

Snow groomer winches are often used on machines that work on steep slopes. A winch can not only support the vehicle on steep slopes but it also plays a big role in security.

These massive winches can be rotated 360 degrees and provide noticeable pulling power. They come with 3,000-4,000-feet cables depending on the model.

Snow Groomer Parts

So in summary, the key parts of snow groomers are as follows:

  • Tracks
  • Drive wheels
  • Guide wheels
  • Cabin
  • Engine
  • Winch
  • Lights
  • Tiller
  • Smoother
  • Deck

How Much Does a Snow Groomer Weigh?

You can expect the average snow groomer’s weight to be in the range of 8,000-25,000 pounds. The smallest models can be as “lightweight” as 8,000 pounds and about 30 feet long. On the other end of the spectrum, you can find the heaviest snow groomers with 25,000+ pounds of gross weight.

This means they are not the lightest vehicles on the mountains!

But despite their huge weight, the ground pressure of snow groomers is typically as low as 4-6 kN/m², which means 0.040 to 0.060 kg/cm².

Snow Groomer Dimensions

Regarding the dimensions of snow groomers, you can expect the length of most machines to be about 30 feet. Their width is strongly dependent on the dimensions of the tracks. With smaller tracks, the groomers are typically 8-10 feet wide, but with larger tracks they can be as wide as 12-14 feet! The overall height of these giant snowcats can also reach the 8-10-foot range.

The dozer blade also has remarkable dimensions, since it is usually 4 feet high and it can be as wide as 10-18 feet!

How Much Horsepower Does a Snow Groomer Have?

To move this massive weight, snow groomers are powered by 250-520 HP engines. The biggest models feature 10,000-12,000cc, 6-cylinder diesel engines, which produce 400-520 HP and 2,200-2,500 Nm torque at 1,200 RPM. On the other end of the spectrum you can find the smallest groomers, which come with 6,000-8,000cc engines and put out 250-300 HP.

As you might assume, these machines burn a lot of fuel. The average fuel consumption of a snow groomer is about 4-5 gallon/hour and they usually feature 70-80-gallon fuel tanks.

This means they can operate 15-20 hours on one tank of fuel. However, it’s strongly dependent on the terrain, ambient temperature, and snow conditions.

How Fast Can a Snow Groomer Go?

As they are not designed for drag racing, the top speed of snow groomers is only 10-18 mph. It also has to be mentioned that the typical grooming speed is even slower, only 5-7 miles per hour.

If the vehicle is moving too slowly, the rolling action generated by the blade won’t be sufficient.

When it’s not in use, the dozer blade should be held 4-6” from the ground to keep it safe from buried obstacles. 

How Much Does a Snow Groomer Cost?

Snow groomer prices vary widely depending on their age, features, and condition.

According to Liftopia, the prices of new snow groomers start from $300,000. In contrast, the costs of vintage snow groomers start from as low as $10,000. But keep in mind that these machines are often 20-30 years old! If you are looking for something between the two ends of the spectrum, decent 5-6- year-old groomers are typically available in the $100,000-$130,000 range.

What’s more, not only are snow groomers expensive to buy, but their operating costs are also very high.

Snow Groomers for Sale

Snow Groomer Manufacturers

If you are looking for a snow groomer for sale, you can choose from plenty of manufacturers. Without the need for completeness, the most well-known snow groomer manufacturers are as follows:

  • Kässbohrer Geländefahrzeug (PistenBully)
  • Tucker Sno-Cat
  • Prinoth
  • Ohara Corporation
  • Aztec

Vintage snowcat manufacturers:

  • Thiokol/LMC
  • Cushman
  • Snow Trac
  • Formatic
  • Logan Machine Company 
  • Bombardier
  • Kristi
  • Frandee
  • Ratrac

Since these machines are pretty expensive, many buyers are looking for used models. Are you wondering where you can find used snow groomers for sale?

It would be best if you start your research at Skiresortequipment.com and the site of Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers. Additionally, you can find Facebook groups and online forum threads as well dedicated to trading snow grooming equipment.

Moreover, if you are lucky, you can also find a nice snow groomer for sale on Craigslist.

PistenBully Snow Groomers

Since PistenBully is the market leader of the snow groomer market, it’s worth taking a closer look at this company!

Who makes PistenBully?

PistenBully is the trademark of Kässbohrer Geländefahrzeug AG. Besides groomers, the company manufactures machines dedicated to beach maintenance, transporting cargo on rough terrain, and many other special purposes. The registered brand names of the company are as follows:

  • PistenBully
  • PowerBully
  • BeachTech
  • Pro Academy
  • SNOWsat
  • Kcomposites

Where is PistenBully made?

PistenBully is manufactured in Germany, which is a guarantee of high quality! The company is headquartered in Laupheim, Germany.

Conclusion

Snow groomers are special snowcats that are built for snow maintenance. As a takeaway we’ve compiled the FAQs about these amazing machines under one roof:

What does a snow groomer do? Snow groomers are used to improve the snow quality on ski slopes, snowmobile trails, and snowboard parks. They move, flatten, and compress the snow to create a hard-packed and nicely groomed surface. Thanks to their low centre of gravity, and low ground pressure, they are often used in agriculture or for industrial purposes.

What are snow groomers called? Snow groomers are also known by many other names, such as snowcats, trail groomers, piste machines, piste bashers, pisten bullies, or ratraks.

How do snow grooming machines work? Snow groomers move and level the snow with their dozer blade. The tilleron the back of the machine grinds the compacted ice and snow, while the smoother finishes the process and flattens the snow behind the machine.

How much does a snow groomer weigh? The average snow groomer weighs about 8,000-25,000 pounds.

How big is a snow groomer? These machines are pretty large, as they are30 feet long, 8-10 feet wide, and as high as 10 feet!

How much horsepower does a snow groomer have? These huge vehicles are typically powered with 6-cylinder diesel engines, which produce 250-520 HP.

How fast can a snow groomer go? The maximum speed of snow groomers is about 10-18 mph, while the “grooming speed” is only 5-7 miles per hour.

How much does a snow groomer cost? The price of new snow groomers start from $300,000, while vintage models are available from $10,000. As you might assume, these old machines require a “little” care and service!

This is our short snow groomer review. We hope you like it!

References

https://utahadvjournal.com/index.php/making-corduroy-the-life-of-a-ski-groomer

https://www.pistenbully.com/

https://www.snowtechmagazine.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-trail-grooming/

https://blog.liftopia.com/snow-grooming-101/

https://www.howitworksdaily.com/how-do-snow-groomers-keep-slopes-ski-ready/

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