One question that we’ve been asked lately is whether or not it’s better for beginners to learn how to ski on groomed or ungroomed trails.
Before we dive into this question it’s best to break down the difference between groomed and ungroomed trails.
Groomed trails are those which have been packed. Sometimes with just a snowmobile pulling a sled or at a larger ski area with a big groomer like you’d see at a downhill ski resort. Without getting into the mechanics of grooming it’s important to know that groomed trails leave behind a sink-free layer of packed snow. This makes them perfect for any type of ski, from skate skis to waxless touring skis. It is easier to learn to ski on groomed trails than on ungroomed trails and skate skiers are pretty much restricted to groomed trails (except for super fun spring crust skiing).
While groomed trails are the best for beginners, they often aren’t always available, convenient or cost effective. I’m pretty sure that when I learned to ski as a toddler it wasn’t at a fancy schmanzy cross-country ski area with packed trails. It was on ungroomed snow following behind my parents ski tracks.
Ungroomed trails are a little bit more wild. With ungroomed trails the skier ‘breaks track’ by skiing over pristine untouched snow. Ungroomed trails have some disadvantages. It can be hard work moving through deep snow and without proper skis (a backcountry ski or touring ski) skiing can be slow and difficult. Skiing on ungroomed trails allows skiers the chance to really get off the beaten path and avoid the crowds. We like to ski ungroomed trails on weekends and holidays.
Where do you prefer to ski? Groomed or ungroomed trails?