'It is my passion,' Meet Groomer Dave, the man running the SJAM winter trail in Ottawa
OTTAWA -- The man behind the popular Sir John A. MacDonald winter trail is known as “Groomer Dave.”
The project started six years ago when Ottawa native Dave Adams was frustrated about seeing the trail by the Ottawa River sit empty during the winter.
“I am a snow groomer, and this is wrong! I could do something with this. So I took my skill set and applied it to where I live,” says Adams.
Since then, the multi-use pathway that runs from the Canadian War Museum to Westboro has grown into 16 kilometres of groomed trails for skiing, fat biking, walking and snowshoeing.
Adams says there is a lot of technique that goes into making a trail perfect.
“No salting, no plowing. You are just pressing the snow and playing with it. You are manicuring it, making it flat,” says Adams. “If you want to get technical, you take out the air and push it down and compact it and make it smooth.”
It can take Adams six to eight hours to maintain the trail.
He doesn’t call snow grooming his job, but his passion.
“I want to make it easy and accessible for people in Ottawa to come and use it. I am bringing cross-country skiing to you!”
Before becoming a snow groomer, Adams had a competitive skiing career that included racing all over Europe.
“The nature of cross-country skiing is you are expected to give back to your community once you have had your racing career. I am doing it,” said Adams.
During the pandemic, the popularity of the trail has ballooned. It used to see roughly 300 visits a day, now the average is 1,300.
“We are edging out the usage that we see in summertime. Because it is right there, and people have cabin fever, and they aren’t supposed to travel, they have this recreational facility right here, so they are using it.”
Adams is quick to acknowledge the team of volunteers that help him.
“No snow groomer is an island,” he says.
There are five other snow groomers that help, as well as a team for snow shovelling and other volunteers.
“The toughest part of the job is 60-65 percent of my time goes into fundraising for the trail. It is a lot of work to be honest,” said Adams. “If I could pour all my time into operations I could do so much more.”
And what about those cold, winter mornings with frostbite warnings?
“That’s what I signed up for! I love the weather. Bad weather is for those who don't know how to dress!”
Adams gets paid enough for maintenance and his time. The entire trail has an operating budget of $51,000. There is a team of volunteers as well as support from Dovercourt Recreation Centre.