How Are Ski Moguls Made? Resorts’ Process to Make Ski Moguls

Moguls just seem to appear on some of your favorite ski runs but to many skiers, it is a mystery how they are made. We will shed the light on how ski moguls are made.

If you ever wondered how ski moguls are made then read on to find out two of the most popular ways, as well as a few tips to ride them!

red snow cat night plowing

How Are Ski Moguls Made? There Are Two Ways

The two most common ways ski moguls are made are naturally and by using a machine. When we say naturally, we are referring to man-made ski moguls. Conversely, when using a machine to make ski moguls, it all comes down to the Snow Cats.

1. Making Ski Moguls Naturally

Making ski moguls is almost unavoidable on steep slopes. The repeated turns by skiers build up piles of snow into moguls. Leaving these ungroomed eventually turns all these piles into moguls.

It takes a lot of repeated turns on the same path to make moguls naturally. The troughs build up as the same line sees more and more skiers. The mounds are further built up as skier’s edges push snow from the trenches into the mounds.

Over the season mogul fields take shape on these ungroomed trails. Beginner riders shouldn’t be worried though, moguls are often left to the advanced and expert trails.

2. Using a Snow Cat to Make Moguls: The Technique

Mogul Field with skiers
Large Mogul Field. Photo Credit random_matt (Flickr CC)

The quicker way to make mogul fields for the season is to use a Snow Cat. This is how the mogul fields are made for everywhere including your local resort, all the way up to the Olympics. It all starts with the snowmaking team blowing excess snow onto the trails and then getting it ready to groom.

So how does a Snow Cat exactly make moguls?

First, a Snow Cat buries its blade and then backs out of the hole. Next, it lifts its blade and drives over the pile it made. This is repeated time and time again down the trail with the Snow Cat tiller raised up above the snow.

Then comes the second pass. The blade is used to make half a cut to stagger holes between the piles it made on the first pass. By the end of this second pass, there will be a series of mounds and troughs.

It is best practice to let this second pass sit overnight so the moguls can form up on the trail. Coming back, the Snow Cat grooms the trails with the blade raised up but the tiller down. With a low tiller speed and slow track speed, it provides the most pressure for grooming the moguls.

At the same time, the bite is taken out of the Snow Cat tiller to prevent from flattening out the moguls.

To put the finishing touches on moguls, the work is often done by hand crews with hand tools. This leaves a good starting point for skiers. The resorts let them on the trails and they take care of the rest.

What Do Ski Resorts Do To Make Moguls

Ski resorts take the machine-made mogul approach on their mogul trails. If you see moguls on a trail that isn’t a trail-rated for moguls then you can be assured that they occurred naturally.

The snowmaking and grooming teams have to work together in tandem to produce good mogul fields. While mogul fields are fun to ride, any snowmaking and grooming team will speak to the extra work that it takes to make a decent mogul field.

How to Ski Moguls

Mogul Run at Whitetail Mountain, PA
Mogul run at Whitetail Mountain, PA. Photo Credit thisisbossi (Flickr CC)

Moguls should only be attempted by high-level skiers. A lesson is so helpful if you are just starting out on moguls. It may be years since you took your last lesson but think about taking one with your local resort or with a friend when starting out on moguls.

There is nothing more confidence-building than an instructor to guide you on your first few runs. Plus it takes out a bit of the imitation factor of moguls.

It’s not uncommon for advanced downhill riders to still have a bit of apprehension on their first few mogul runs. Everyone is in the same boat.

Get Started on Moguls

As you first start out, you’ll want to find some smaller and less intimidating bumps to ride. The easiest way is to ride across them, staying balanced over your feet and keeping your skis in contact with the snow at all times.

Keep your skis together at all times when starting a mogul run. Your legs should be relaxed and your upper body should face down the slope. Short, drifting and sliding turns should be used between the moguls.

Your legs should be bent at the crest of the moguls and throughout the turns. One additional tip is to use the backside of the moguls as a brake. You can effectively slow your speed on steeper and larger moguls when you proactively use them as a brake.

Having a plan of where you will turn will help you traverse moguls. Read the terrain ahead and avoid going into the moguls without a plan! It will make you more successful and the runs more enjoyable.

Final Thoughts

Once you have skied long enough, it is unavoidable that you cross moguls. They may be made naturally or by a machine but either way, they will test your riding. As we mentioned, there is a big value in taking lessons to ride moguls.

Not only will it make you more confident riding but it will also open up new terrain on the mountain for you to explore.

At least for now you can explain to all your friends riding without, how ski moguls are made.

Alec Wilson writes for Proper Peaks and lives near Claremont, VT. He hardly misses a weekend on the ski slopes in the winter. If there is snow, Alec’s skis are on for a go. Look out for his stickered-up helmet and you might just meet him on the trails.

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