What does a Snow Groomer do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

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.

Snow groomers prepare slopes for winter sports, such as skiing.
Snow groomers prepare slopes for winter sports, such as skiing.

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 may ensure ski resorts are free of downed trees or branches that could endanger skiers.
Snow groomers may ensure ski resorts are free of downed trees or branches that could endanger skiers.

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.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@mobilian33 - I agree with you that the artificial snow is less dependable and a bit trickier to ski. Most the snow making machines simply shoot water into the air and what falls is like freezing rain. There are some machines that can produce fluffy snow under ideal conditions, but this is rare.


@Animandel - You shouldn't put all of the blame for the bad conditions of the snow on the people and the snow grooming equipment that keep it in shape for skiing. They may have something to do with the condition of the snow, but this definitely is not the biggest factor.

If you are having a harder time than normal skiing then there is a good chance this is because you are skiing on man-made snow and not the real stuff that falls naturally. There are a lot of ski resorts near where I live, and I always have to listen to the skiers complaining when there has been little snow during the season, and the resorts are making most of the snow.


@Animandel - I cannot say for certain that the snow groomer and the snow equipment make the snow harder to navigate, but I do know what your friend is talking about. I have definitely heard this. I think it is based on the fact that the machines cause the snow to melt and then it refreezes as ice instead of snow.

The machines also pack the snow unnaturally. The packing plus the melting and icing makes the skiing faster and makes staying upright a bit harder for the average skier I guess.


I have heard that the equipment that snow groomers use can actually make the snow more difficult to ski on. A friend told me that she prefers snowing on the untouched snow because she falls less and is less likely to get hurt. Does anyone have an opinion on whether there are any facts to back this up?

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