Grooming the trails: Concord finally able to use new snow groomer


Monitor staff

Published: 01-26-2023 6:02 PM

With a thick blanket of snow on the ground and more on the way, the City of Concord has been able to use its newest toy – a ski trail groomer.

The machine that keeps cross-country ski trails smooth and manicured after snowstorms now resides at Beaver Meadow after the nonprofit organization Ski the Beav worked to raise money over the course of three years to help the City of Concord buy it.

Its use should provide much-needed improvement to the course’s trails, grinding up icy spots and leaving a consistent track to ski. While the groomer lives at Beaver Meadow, it’s not inconceivable for it to travel to other ski areas like White Farm if it’s needed. The City of Concord will ultimately make any decisions on transporting it.

It looks somewhat like a small bulldozer (without the bucket in front) and serves a similar purpose to a Zamboni for an ice rink.

“The problem in Concord is that we are far enough south that, even if there’s good snow on the ground, we get a lot of freeze-thaw cycles,” said Sam Evans-Brown, chair of Ski the Beav and assistant coach for the Concord High Nordic team. “That means that even when there’s good snow, it’ll ice up very quickly.”

Joe Ayotte, who founded Concord’s Bill Koch Nordic League for elementary and middle school-aged children knows all about freezing and thawing as full-time as a hydrologist.

“It’s a challenging thing to get your head around, but one thing is clear: With warming, when we do get snow, the snow may not stay in its original state for very long,” Ayotte said. “It may melt, transform or even turn into ice or at least icy surface conditions.”

Beaver Meadow previously used a snowmobile to groom the trails, but the machine wasn’t able to grind up the ice well enough to create great paths to ski. They did have to temporarily revert back to using the old groomer this week because a hydraulic hose on the new machine needs to be fixed.

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As a ski coach, Evans-Brown often saw his skiers skittering over ice, falling and ripping their pants and bruising their knees. The less-than-ideal conditions made it extra challenging, especially for more inexperienced skiers. The snow groomer should help alleviate most, if not all, of those problems.

And beyond just making conditions safer, area skiers should also be able to enjoy a greater number of skiable days.

Ayotte estimated that the groomer could at least double the number of ski days at Beaver Meadow.

Adding the snow groomer is just step one in Ski the Beav’s plan of vastly improving cross-country skiing in Concord. Evans-Brown looks further south near Boston to Weston Ski Track as a model they’re hoping to replicate.

“It’s a municipally-owned golf course, and that golf course is leased to a nonprofit that runs the cross country ski operations on the golf course in the winter, and they have lights, they have snowmaking, they have a thriving youth program that hundreds of kids learn how to ski at every year,” he said. “That’s a vision that we’re sort of rolling out slowly. We’re trying to get folks in the city comfortable with it.”

Regarding putting in lights, Evans-Brown sees it as an additional opportunity to expand Nordic ski options for residents.

“People could go for a ski after work and get out and get some exercise in the dark months,” he said. “I think that might be a low-cost next step that we could all take together as a community.”

Though a timeline for further improvements is unclear, Ski the Beav remains committed to continually improving skiing in Concord. Lights and snowmaking equipment would surely go a long way, complementing the new snow groomer.

“We might be able to obtain one or the other sooner than later,” Ayotte said. “But the main point is we’re pushing forward on all fronts.”