"When I was a kid, going out early with my dad to groom was one of my favorite things to do,” Amy Frischmon, owner of Wild Mountain Winter & Summer Recreation, says.
What exactly is grooming? Well, according to Wikipedia: “Snow grooming is the process of manipulating snow for recreational uses with … specialized equipment. The process is used to maintain ski hills, cross-country ski trails and snowmobile trails by grooming (moving, flattening, rototilling or compacting) the snow on them. A snow groomer is usually employed to pack snow and improve skiing and snowboarding and snowmobile trail conditions. The resulting pattern on the snow is known as corduroy, and is widely regarded as a good surface on which to ski or ride.”
Why is it so fun? Grooming starts in the pre-dawn hours and Frischmon remembers being out with her dad, in the dark, getting the slopes ready for the day as a special time.
Adam Mahler, mountain manager at the Trollhaugen Outdoor Recreation Area, shares Frischmon’s affection for grooming. “It has a satisfying feeling when you get done grooming a trail, or jump, or the whole terrain park and it looks pristine,” he says. “Also, being up that early on a clear cold morning, you get some pretty amazing sunrises. And, later, the perk of it is seeing the customers enjoy great snow and conditions.”
Trollhaugen and Wild Mountain are both family owned and operated businesses, and they are both popular ski areas with deep ties to the St. Croix Valley.
“My parents purchased Wild Mountain in 1972, I was 3 years old,” Frischmon says. “We (my family of five) grew up working at the ski area and doing everything.”
Mahler feels much the same about Trollhaugen. Although not technically part of the family, he has worked there for 18 years. “I started out when I was 14 in the rental shop and worked in many departments over the years,” he says. He started working in terrain park building and grooming about 13 years ago and took over the mountain manager position this past spring when the previous manager retired after 38 years.
“Trollhaugen has this special vibe to it that’s hard to explain but when you come here it feels like you’re family and welcome,” he says.
Frischmon points out that it isn’t just family feeling that makes longevity important, it’s also the experience that a long-serving staff brings to the ski area. “The more you groom the better you become. If a groomer is a skier or snowboarder that also helps, as they appreciate what a skier/boarder is looking for,” she explains.
Mahler agrees. He points out that different conditions require different kinds of grooming … something you learn from doing. “Man-made snow isn’t like the stuff that falls from the sky, it gets a lot firmer in most cases and you need that groomer to bust up the firm snow and bring it back to life,” he says.
So, remember, when you hit the slopes in the St. Croix Valley for a day of snowy wintertime fun, you can thank a groomer for that corduroy!