Grooming FAQ

Attention Groomers! Click on the GUIDELINES link  to read about this season’s Trail Grooming Guidelines.

Facts about ND’s state snowmobile trails.
The ND Parks and Recreation Department contracts Snowmobile North Dakota to manage the state snowmobile trail program.  The state snowmobile trail program works with 14 trail associations in ND.  As the program has evolved since the late 80’s, the main goal was to absorb the larger annual expenses for the trails such as equipment, insurance and trail signs.  Assuming the larger expenses leaves minimal funding leftover to maintain the trails (costs of grooming, grubbing, install and removal of trail signs).  The trail program is extremely fortunate to work with a group of dedicated volunteers that donate time to grub and sign the trail systems annually.  39 snowmobile clubs exist in ND and it’s estimated each club donates over 740 hours annually to the state snowmobile trail system.  Each trail association receives an annual budget to help maintain the local trail system but it pales in comparison to the actual costs of grooming.  So the next time you see someone maintaining the trail, thank them for their time helping to provide a place to snowmobile in ND.

How is the state snowmobile trail funded?
Snowmobile North Dakota receives contract dollars from the ND Parks and Recreation Department.  These contract dollars are pulled from the state snowmobile fund which is generated by snowmobile registrations and a portion of gas tax.  The state snowmobile trail program assumes 70{64ba88878b2e04e9a3727ef51f224f8a7f7bff4e6ee9e04d7a87a7b2faab02f6} of the trail grooming equipment, 100{64ba88878b2e04e9a3727ef51f224f8a7f7bff4e6ee9e04d7a87a7b2faab02f6} of the trail insurance and 90{64ba88878b2e04e9a3727ef51f224f8a7f7bff4e6ee9e04d7a87a7b2faab02f6} of the trail sign expenses.  The remaining funds are used to assist trail associations with grooming operation costs.  A good portion of grooming operation costs are funded locally through club events and community grants.

On average it costs over $114,000 to maintain just one of the 14 trail systems in the state.   The state snowmobile trail program has leveraged trail expenses with grant funding making it possible to maintain over 2,800 miles of trail, even if there is no snow to groom.


Annual Expenses Associated w/Snowmobile Trails
Description Per Cost Cost Based on 100 Miles
Annual Trail Liability Insurance Policy Trail Association $1,010.72 Covers entire Association
Trails Signs (Approximately 20 signs) 1 Mile $100.00 $10,000.00
Estimated Annual 5{64ba88878b2e04e9a3727ef51f224f8a7f7bff4e6ee9e04d7a87a7b2faab02f6} Trail Sign Replacement Cost 1 Mile $5.00 $500.00
Trail Maintenance/Grooming 1 Mile $9.36 $936.00
Average Annual Land Lease Cost Trail Association $73.00 Covers entire Association
State Grooming Equipment Trail Association $112,071.43 N/A
Average Fuel Costs Trail Association $2,871.48 Covers entire Association
Average Groomer Operator Payroll Costs Trail Association $914.56 Covers entire Association
Total Fixed Annual Trail Expenses Trail Association $114,069.71 plus grooming & signs


I paid my club dues, why aren’t the trails groomed for my ride? 
Snowmobile trail maintenance is becoming more expensive every year with the price of fuel and maintenance costs increasing.  To ensure every snowmobiler gets the best bang for their buck, the trail associations monitor grooming very closely.  Every trail coordinator in the state watches club event schedules and the weather very closely.     This insures grooming will take place during  favorable conditions in order to provide a better trail to the user.  Just what are favorable conditions:  clear visibility, minimal winds and recent snowfall.

Just think, every weekend and sometimes evenings, the ski-slopes are packed with skiers enjoying their recreation of choice often paying $25 to $45 for four hours of facility use. Snowmobile club dues average $30 for the season and can be utilized to maintain trails for up to 4 months annually depending on snow conditions. It costs over $9 to groom one mile of trail!  ND offers over 2,800 miles of state snowmobile trail, so each trail system manages approximately 200 miles of trail. At 200 miles of trail, one grooming will cost approximately $1,800.  This cost couldn’t be provided if it wasn’t for the 100’s of hours donated by all the volunteers in the state.  In summary, with the many resources utilized compared to the inexpensive fees it costs to ride any snowmobile trail, we should all feel it’s a privilege, not a right, to have groomed snowmobile trails.

I have free time, can I operate a groomer?
The ND Parks and Recreation Department owns a fleet of 14 groomers and drags.  The use and management of this equipment is contracted to Snowmobile North Dakota.  We require all groomer operators to have taken a state Groomer Certification Class in order to operate the equipment.  Thisclass is held at Snowmobile North Dakota’s annual convention.  Classes outside of the convention are considered Remote Groomer Certification Classes and are scheduled as requested by the state trail associations.  After completing the class, new operators are required to spend 4 hours grooming with an experienced groomer operator (someone that has groomed for the state snowmobile trail program in previous years.)  During the 4 hours, the new operator is required to observe the experienced groomer operate the equipment for 2 hours.  The remaining 2 hours, the experienced groomer operator must observe and monitor the new groomer operate the equipment.  Groomer operators are paid employees of the state snowmobile trail system.  However, to help reduce costs for the program, many groomer operators donate their time.

Why don’t the groomers run more often during poor trail conditions? There are a couple reasons why groomers aren’t on the trail as much as some believe they should. First, keep in mind that groomers do their best work alone, free from traffic. Our trails are a minimum of eight feet wide.  The largest drags in the fleet are ten feet wide and there may not be room for traffic to pass.  Second, many of our groomer operators are volunteers who have regular jobs and/or commitments that cause some delays in grooming.

Trails were rough today, why didn’t I see any groomers out?
Our groomers typically operate at night. The purpose of a groomer is to remove moguls, not to break new trails after a light or heavy snow. The cold snow conditions after dark allows groomers to bust-up moguls moving snow thru the drag which causes friction, creating heat and resulting in a new smooth foundation, similar to paved roads. Grooming at night provides ample time for the trail to set up hard and withstand heavy traffic. Groomers are well lighted and very visible at night too, providing for safe travel. Grooming equipment may run during daylight hours in cold conditions and to repair heavy traveled portions of trails.  These trails are quickly moguled because they don’t receive ample time for the trail to set up before it’s used by snowmobilers.