The Science of Grooming

Posted March 10, 2023

Snowcat overlooking the Park City Valley

On a bluebird day, there might be nothing that brings a smile to your face quite like carving turns on a perfectly groomed run. Park City Mountain ’s world-class grooming team works its magic while you’re sleeping to ensure you have fresh corduroy to enjoy on your favorite slopes every morning. Grooming and maintaining trails, terrain parks and lift access requires planning, precision and technical expertise to make sure the snow surface is ready for your enjoyment

Snowcat 101

There are several types of snowcats: groomers and winchcats, cabin cats and food cats. Our friends at Breckenridge even have a DJ cat! – but for our purposes, we’re going to dive in to the two types of snowcats that lay down the corduroy at Park City: groomers and winchcats. Snowcat groomers have three main components that allow them to do their jobs: the blade, the tracks and the tiller.

The blade is on the front of the snowcat and can be up to 20 feet wide! It moves in 12 different directions to chop, fill, push and move snow.

Driving snowcats up and down the slopes are the tracks. The tracks wide treads, up to 6 feet wide on some cats (similar to those on a tank!), are made of rubber belts with metal grousers fit over rubber wheels. In addition to moving snowcats around the mountain, tracks also help break up and consolidate snow.

The tiller is located on the rear of the snowcat and includes moving parts that churn, flatten, and sculpt the snow. A spinning cutter bar churns up the snow that is then sculpted into your favorite rows of corduroy by a flap called the comb. This leaves a perfect trail of corduroy on the slopes behind the snowcat. 

Grooming in the early morning at Park City



Steeper trails with angles about 30 degrees and steeper, depending on snow conditions, require a little extra work to groom and the use of a winchcat. Winchcats, as their name implies, are equipped with large winches that house a steel cable. The free end of the cable is anchored at the top of a slope before the snowcat begins to groom. This enables the snowcat to control its descents on the steeper trails and assist in climbing. The assist of the winch also allows the cat to push more snow back up the trail.


Fun Facts about Park City’s Grooming Team


  • On average, our team grooms over 130 trails every night!

  • Grooming starts each night shortly after the lifts close and sweeps are complete. It continues all night until just before our lifts start spinning at 9:00 am.

  • In addition to perfecting corduroy on runs, our grooming team also maintains the transition surface from snow to our base and restaurants, digs out low clearance areas of our chairlifts, and grooms travel roads for snowmobiles for our on-mountain teams.

  • Most of the machines have FNRs, or joysticks, that control the tracks, the blade and the tiller. The tracks arecontrolled by the operator’s left hand and the blade and tiller are controlled by the right hand. Other switches and buttons in the cabin control interior and exterior lights, radio, stereo, heater controls and other functions for the machine.