I discovered today is why they call it Ridge Road! (Photo Credit: Jo-Ann Holden)
I was aware that some skiers weren't content with the grooming from several emails to XCOttawa and a few discussions with other skiers. (http://www.musicianonskis.ca
Today I had the chance to ski later in the morning than usual, supposedly after they had "finished" grooming. Actually they had stopped grooming but it wasn't finished in my opinion. There were lots of details that should have been looked after: ruts, filled in classic tracks, spill over chunks, mounts, etc.
Here's the grooming issues as I see them...
- They aren't finished grooming as early as in the past. A lot of pass holders ski early morning before work so the grooming needs to finished by sun-up ~6:30am. Then everyone who skis before work is happy. I've been out regularly 7-9am and the groomers seem to be only 50% done by then. It's too late for a good portion of the morning crowd. Is the issue not enough people/machines? Are they starting to groom later?
- Poor attention to details - the ridge on Ridge, the semi-filled tracks, the bad overlapped grooming bumps, etc aren't the quality we've come to expect. I'm not sure what the cause of this is exactly. It's like the person driving the groomer doesn't know skiing or doesn't care about the final product. Its sloppy work. Are they going too fast? Are they unaccustomed to the new machines they are driving? Are the machines not quite as capable as what Lafleur used? Is it a question of poor choice of machine sizes? The ridge and filled in classic track on Ridge and the lack of grooming out to the Firetower and of Burma is a sign of skimping.
- The number of passes they do down Ridge Road appears to be one out and one back. But the second one is leaving a nearly filled classic track, or a wiped out track in places. This makes classic on the one side difficult, and leaves a mess in the skate lane forcing skaters to ski closer or the good track. very obvious this morning and hazardous to new/elderly or unskilled skiers.
- Trails with the wrong level of priority. This is a NCC/park issue, but it impacts the way grooming is done. Ridge, Burma and the other "real" ski trails (aka not parkways which are roads and not ski trails) are mainly rated as lower priority, and as such groomed after the parkways. It shouldn't be that way. Most skiers don't come to Gatineau Park to ski on the roads! They come for ski trails, of which there aren't that many marked as a priority trail when it comes to grooming.
I'm not ready to ask for a refund on my park pass yet, but I think there's lots of room for improvement in the current grooming.