Grooming FAQs

  • How often do you groom? We try to groom when we can improve the skiing conditions on the Vasa Pathway. This depends on the amount of new snow, air and snow temperatures, amount of skier use, and the depth and quality of the base. We try to groom a minimum of four times a week when conditions permit; however, when we receive consistent new snow we will groom as often as necessary. More experienced skiers tend to like hard fast conditions, less experienced skiers prefer to have slower softer conditions, and classic skiers want firm hard tracks. The groomers try to provide the best possible compromise so that everyone using the trail has an enjoyable experience.
  • Why do you groom in the evening or early morning when there are few skiers using the trail? Having grooming equipment on the trail at the same time as skiers leads to safety concerns. We also would like the trail to have a chance to set up before the skiers begin using it.
  • How long does it take for the trail to set up after grooming? Generally it takes from two to four hours. It depends on the amount of new snow, the density of the snow and base, snow and air temperatures, and moisture content.
  • Why don’t you set classic tracks during every groom? We need at least two to three inches of base before we can set classic tracks the conventional way. Sometimes we can use a special track setting roller to set tracks in thin conditions; however, these tracks do not have the depth and traditional look of tracks set normally. Once we have established an adequate base we reset the tracks as often as possible. In order to set good tracks the base must be ground up to the depth of the tracks. In conditions where we have not received new snow in awhile and the base has become hard packed it is difficult or impossible to grind deep enough so the new tracks then turn out worse than the existing tracks. In this case we leave the existing tracks, just renovate the skate lane and hope for new snow.
  • How long does it take to groom the Vasa Pathway? A normal groom will take at least five to six hours. A lot of things can increase this time including removing debris, repairing damage, and the need for additional initial passes to pack significant new snow. It is not uncommon for groomers to spend 8-12 hours on the trail.
  • What equipment do you use? TART has a nice selection of equipment from which to choose. Learn more about the equipment here. The groomers make the decision on what to use after they arrive at the trailhead and evaluate the existing trail conditions. Sometimes they will try a piece of equipment only to find that it is not working as expected and then go back to hook up something else.
  • Who maintains the grooming equipment? Whenever possible the groomers maintain and modify the equipment. Equipment dealers or specialized repair facilities handle serious repairs to the LMC or snowmobiles when special tools or expertise are needed. Approximately one hour of equipment maintenance is required for every four hours spent grooming. This does not include the trail preparation work that is done in the summer and fall to prepare the trail for the season.
  • What are the ways to ruin cross country ski trails in the winter? Footprints – whether they are from dog paws, snowshoes or people’s feet. Dog owners, snowshoers, and hikers should use the multi-use Meadows Loop or the snowshoe trails. Skiing on the trails when they are wet, soft and/or during rain. Big groups of skiers making abrupt turns and stops without filling in holes. Skiers who make unnecessary and radical moves; e.g., hockey stops. Fecal matter! Even multi-use trails should never have dog poop. Don’t deer and other critters leave fecal matter and footprints? Yes, they do, but they don’t have human owners!
  • Why do some skiers skate over the classic tracks? Good question. If anyone has a good answer please let us know.


  • What’s this Winter Singletrack Trail I’ve heard about?  We are happy to announce the DNR approved a new multi- use trail ideal for fatbiking. A partnership was formed with members representing the Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association (IMBA Chapter), DNR, North American Vasa, Vasa Ski Club, TART and others from the skiing and biking community. Made up of skiers and cyclists, the ten-member Winter Trail Task Force met throughout the summer to address the winter use issues and develop a plan with a long-term goal of providing high quality winter skiing and biking opportunities. The group proposed to use a network of existing trails including portions of the Vasa singletrack to create a new trail. The plan was approved DNR in October. Learn more about the group’s efforts and plan in the Winter Trail Task Force Report.
  • Is this a new trail for TART? No, this is a DNR trail just like the Vasa Pathway is a DNR trail. The Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association (NMMBA) with supporting partners are responsible for trail development, fundraising and grooming. Construction of the new trail was led by NMMBA and performed by fatbiker and skier volunteers who worked countless hours preparing the trail for its inaugural season.
  • Where is the new fatbike trail? The new multi-use trail is located off of Supply Road. Make sure you have your Recreation Passport for the trailhead. The trail incorporates a portion of the existing official Vasa singletrack, converted unofficial singletrack and construction of new trail. Total trail distance will be 15k (9.3 miles). A small portion of the trail will incorporate a section of Reily’s Loop and Perch Lake Road in the winter months.
  • How is grooming the new multi-use trail funded? The trail is funded through grooming badge donors that indicated use on the Winter Sports Singletrack. Don’t forget to get a badge and support winter recreation in northern Michigan.
  • Who  grooms the new trail? NMMBA is in charge of grooming the 15k of the Winter Sports Singletrack and TART Trails will continue groom the 40k on the Vasa Pathway and portions of the Leelanau Trail.
  • Does this mean fatbikers won’t be able to ride on the Vasa Pathway? The Vasa Pathway is a multi-use trail open to all non-motorized users. The DNR is not considering banning fatbikes from the Vasa. However, the new trail will be ideal for fatbikes to ride on and will provide them with the best experience.
  • Is it safe to have skiers and bikers on the same trail?  Last year no accidents were reported between skiers and cyclists. Just like hikers and mountain bikers sharing trails in the summer, the way trails are used is important to providing a safe and enjoyable trail experience. Trail etiquette signage will be posted at the trailhead and on the website. If you experience a safety related incident on the trails, please contact TART Trails at (231) 941-4300, or complete the Trail Incident Reporting Form.
  • Why ride when you can ski? Fatbikes provide a fun way for cyclists to stay in shape during the winter season off their trainer holed up in their basement. Fatbikes also provide a way for skiers to cross-train! Simply bundle up like you would for skiing and get out and ride. No waxing required.
  • Why is the Winter Sports Singletrack only 15k long? It takes significant time and resources to develop a new trail. Twice around will give you a great ride and there are multiple loop options that are non-directional. The group is hoping to work on the next phase to connect more locations for improved non-motorized winter recreation opportunities.
  • What do the skiers get out of this? We all benefit from a new trail in the community. The skiers benefit from reduced pressure on the Vasa Pathway with the creation of the cycling oriented trail.  The new trail is also open to skiers and is conducive to classic skiing though no tracks will be set.
  • Got questions about the grooming? For questions on the VASA Pathway notify , for questions on the Winter Sports Singletrack contact
  • What do other Nordic trails do? We are not the only, nor the first organization to tackle this issue. There are a variety of approaches other places have used including shared trails, separate trails, fatbike use during designated times/days.

Marquette: NTN plans to groom 20 plus miles of single-track on the NTN South Trails for winter biking. Fatbikes are allowed to use Nordic trails that are dog friendly. Riders can support snow bike grooming by purchasing a “support the Groom” card at Marquette bike shops and the NTN Office.

Al Qual Recreation area, Ishpeming: Fatbikes are allowed on ski trails with purchase of a pass.

Michigan Tech trail system: Nearly 15 kilometers of groomed ski trail and ungroomed single-track are open to fatbike bikers.  Restricted to purpose-built snow bikes only.

Swedetown trails:  Fatbikes are allowed after 6pm on Tuesdays. A season or day pass must be purchased.

Round Valley, Park City, UT: 25 km of trails shared by all: skiers, dog walkers, snowshoers, dog walkers, snow bikers.

Levi Mounds, WI: Fatbikers use different trails than skiers, groomed by snowmobiles but share same warming hut.

Grand Targhee, WY: The first ski resort to open large sections of their Nordic Trails to bikes.

Methow, WA: Opened a 25K section of their extensive nordic trail network to fatbikes last winter. They have evolved a system of “red days” when the 25k are closed to fatbikes due to trail conditions (about 10% of the time) and “green days” when the 25 kilometers are open to fatbikes (the rest of the time). This has worked well, though they struggle with getting financial support from trail users other thank skiers (i.e. fatbikes, walkers, etc)
There are about 50 kilometers of multi-use trails managed by others in their area, some of which are open to fatbikes. Here is a link to a local website there that provides some information.

Royal Gorge, CO: Opening parts of trails to fatbikes this year.

Tahoe Donner, CA: Opening parts of trails to fatbikes this year.

Anchorage, AK: The Nordic Sking Association of Anchorage grooms  multi-use trails that allow fatbikes, and trails that are just for cross-country skiing.

White Pass Ski area, WA: Allowed every day after 3:30pm, conditions permitting.

Alberta, Canada: Snow bikes allowed everywhere except certain restricted trails.