A snow groomer uses specialized equipment to maintain conditions at a facility used for winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. Snow groomers use the equipment to keep trails safe and reliable and can be spotted on the trails at snow resorts, as well as sporting events like the winter Olympics. This job usually does not have education requirements beyond a high school diploma, and some familiarity with operating heavy equipment is useful, but not required, as people can be trained on the job.
The snow groomer goes out when trails are not in use, typically at night, with snow grooming equipment like tracked tractors. The equipment is used to compact the snow, as well as moving it around to meet the needs of trail use. The result is a very reliable: steady surface that will behave predictably and dependably when people use it. For sports events, this is critical in the interests of fairness, as variations in trail conditions could create advantages for some athletes, and for recreation, it improves safety.
Snow groomers can work with natural snow, as well as artificial snow created to seed the hills at a resort in regions where the natural snow may not meet the needs of the facility. As part of their work, they also check for hazards like downed trees and abandoned equipment, clearing the trails to keep them safe. Snow groomers can also cultivate specific desired conditions for particular types of trails, such as very safe, level snow for trails used to teach skiing.
To do this work, people need to be comfortable operating tractors and similar devices in cold conditions. Snow groomers are usually heavily bundled up while they work and may use tractors with insulated cabs for additional protection. Comfort in the snow is also advisable, as the snow groomer may need to get out of the cab to inspect conditions. Familiarity with winter sports helps, as the snow groomer should know what kinds of conditions are optimal so adjustments can be made as needed.
Snow groomer employment is seasonal. Winter resorts tend to hire large staffs in the winter months and then lay staff members off in the spring and summer, unless they are in an area where maintaining conditions for skiing, snowboards, and snowshoeing year round is a possibility. Some snow groomers may be able to get jobs doing trail maintenance and construction in the off season, but this is not guaranteed.