Title:
Snow surface grooming apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A snow grooming apparatus is adapted for being drawn by a towing vehicle on a snow surface such as a ski slope. A chassis rides on a pair of runners and supports plural snow shearing blades which are angled for directing snow laterally with respect to the center of the apparatus. An hydraulic actuating system is adapted for vertically positioning a ski centered with respect to the runners. Thus, when this ski is extended downwardly, the chassis and the snow shearing blades are raised to accommodate the snow surface. A pair of wheels are movable to support the chassis above the surface for moving across roads.



Inventors:
Gregoire, Robert (Lake Linden, MI, US)
Gregoire, Mary (Lake Linden, MI, US)
Application Number:
10/682274
Publication Date:
04/14/2005
Filing Date:
10/08/2003
Assignee:
GREGOIRE ROBERT
GREGOIRE MARY
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E01H4/02; (IPC1-7): E01C19/22
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
BEACH, THOMAS A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PATENT LAW & VENTURE GROUP, PLLC (Las Vegas, NV, US)
Claims:
1. A snow grooming apparatus adapted for being drawn by a towing vehicle in contact with a snow surface, the apparatus comprising: a chassis providing opposing spaced apart runners positioned for moving the apparatus on the snow surface, and at least two pairs of opposing snow shearing blades angled so as to move snow in contact therewith toward a center of the chassis; a ski medially engaged with the chassis and movable vertically relative thereto; a means for fixing the ski at vertical positions including a position wherein the ski is in contact with the snow surface while the runners are above the snow surface, and a position wherein the runners are in contact with the snow surface while the ski is above the snow surface; a pair of wheels rearwardly engaged with the chassis and movable vertically relative thereto; a means for fixing the wheels at vertical positions including a position wherein the wheels are in contact with the snow surface while the runners and ski are above the snow surface, and a position wherein the runners or the ski are in contact with the snow surface while the wheels are above the snow surface.

2. The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a means for hitching the chassis to the towing vehicle, the hitching means providing a means for fixing the chassis at vertical positions including a position wherein the chassis is approximately parallel with the snow surface, and a position wherein a forward end of the chassis is raised above the snow surface.

3. The apparatus of claim 2 wherein the means for fixing the ski, means for fixing the wheels, and means for fixing the chassis each include a linear actuator.

4. A snow grooming apparatus adapted for being drawn by a towing vehicle in contact with a snow surface, the apparatus comprising: a chassis providing opposing spaced apart runners positioned for moving the apparatus on the snow surface, and at least two pairs of opposing snow shearing blades angled so as to move snow in contact therewith toward a center of the chassis; a ski medially engaged with the chassis and movable vertically relative thereto; a means for fixing the ski at vertical positions including a position wherein the ski is in contact with the snow surface while the runners are above the snow surface, and a position wherein the runners are in contact with the snow surface while the ski is above the snow surface; a pair of wheels rearwardly engaged with the chassis and movable vertically relative thereto; and a means for hitching the chassis to the towing vehicle, the hitching means providing a means for fixing the chassis at vertical positions including a position wherein the chassis is approximately parallel with the snow surface, and a position wherein a forward end of the chassis is raised above the snow surface.

5. The apparatus of claim 4 further comprising a means for fixing the wheels at vertical positions including a position wherein the wheels are in contact with the snow surface while the runners and ski are above the snow surface, and a position wherein the runners or the ski are in contact with the snow surface while the wheels are above the snow surface.

6. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein the means for fixing the ski, means for fixing the wheels, and means for fixing the chassis each include a linear actuator.

7. A snow grooming method comprising the steps of: positioning a chassis having opposing spaced apart runners on a snow surface; engaging at least two pairs of opposing snow shearing blades with the chassis; angling the blades so as to move snow in contact therewith toward a center of the chassis; moving a ski medially engaged with the chassis vertically relative thereto between a position wherein the ski is in contact with the snow surface while the runners are above the snow surface, and a position wherein the runners are in contact with the snow surface while the ski is above the snow surface in order to accommodate the snow surface; engaging a pair of wheels rearwardly on the chassis and moving the wheels vertically relative thereto between a position wherein the wheels are in contact with the snow surface while the runners and ski are above the snow surface, and a position wherein the runners or the ski are in contact with the snow surface while the wheels are above the snow surface in order to accommodate the type of snow surface.

8. The method of claim 7 further comprising the steps of: providing a means for hitching the chassis to the towing vehicle; adjusting the hitching means between a position wherein the chassis is approximately parallel with the snow surface, and a position wherein a forward end of the chassis is raised above the snow surface.

9. The method of claim 8 wherein the means for fixing the ski, means for fixing the wheels, and means for fixing the chassis are each actuated by a linear actuator.

10. A snow grooming method comprising the steps of: positioning a chassis having opposing spaced apart runners on a snow surface; engaging at least two pairs of opposing snow shearing blades with the chassis; angling the blades so as to move snow in contact therewith toward a center of the chassis; moving a ski medially engaged with the chassis vertically relative thereto between a position wherein the ski is in contact with the snow surface while the runners are above the snow surface, and a position wherein the runners are in contact with the snow surface while the ski is above the snow surface in order to accommodate the snow surface; providing a means for hitching the chassis to the towing vehicle; adjusting the hitching means between a position wherein the chassis is approximately parallel with the snow surface, and a position wherein a forward end of the chassis is raised above the snow surface.

11. The method of claim 10 further comprising the steps of: engaging a pair of wheels rearwardly on the chassis and moving the wheels vertically relative thereto between a position wherein the wheels are in contact with the snow surface while the runners and ski are above the snow surface, and a position wherein the runners or the ski are in contact with the snow surface while the wheels are above the snow surface in order to accommodate the type of snow surface.

12. The method of claim 11 wherein the means for fixing the ski, means for fixing the wheels, and means for fixing the chassis are each actuated by a linear actuator.

Description:

The present invention is a substitute application for a prior filed non-provisional patent application having Ser. No. 09/780,904 and an official filing date of Feb. 9, 2001 and which discloses substantially the same material as described herein.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates generally to devices for grooming the surface of a snow field and more particularly to such an apparatus with hydraulic actuation for positioning the vertical attitude of a sled, a drawing yolk and a set of wheels.

2. Description of Related Art

The following art defines the present state of this field:

Kober, U.S. Pat. No. 3,043,034 describes a leveler comprising a hitch embodying a pair of side elements connected together, a pair of angularly arranged braces having their front ends affixed to said side elements, a front runner section providing a front tuck comprising a pair of horizontally disposed short angle irons having upstanding ears thereon pivotally connected to the rear ends of said braces, trunnions, extending outwardly from said angle irons, a pair of front runners having blocks affixed thereto and bearings on said blocks swivelly receiving said trunnions; a pair of horizontally disposed spaced parallel bars extending between said pair of angle irons and secured thereto, a smoothing blade mounted, below said bars and including an inclined portion and a lower horizontally disposed portion; a turntable mounted on said bars intermediate the ends thereof, trunnions affixed to said turntable, the rear portions of said side elements being connected to said last named trunnions, a main frame including a pair of similar side members, and said side members including spaced parallel forwardly disposed front first portions connected to said turntable, second portions arranged angularly with respect to said first portions, spaced parallel third portions arranged rearwardly of said second portions, angularly arranged fourth portions disposed rearwardly of said third portions, spaced parallel apertured lugs extending upwardly from the first portions of said frame, bearing elements on the inner surfaces of the second portions of the frame, a cross element pivotally connected to said bearing elements, an outer tubular member arranged at right angles with respect to said cross element and affixed thereto, and said tubular member adapted to selectively extend between the first portions of the frame, pins adapted to be selectively arranged above said outer tubular member and said last named pins adapted to engage said lugs, an inner tubular member slidably arranged in said outer tubular member, hand pieces connected to the outer end of said inner tubular member, a cross brace extending between the side elements of said hitch for selective engagement by the inner tubular member; a rear runner section defining a back truck comprising a pair of spaced parallel horizontally disposed back runners having blocks thereon with bearings affixed to said last named blocks, angle irons having trunnions swivelly engaging said last named bearings, a pair of spaced parallel horizontally disposed bars extending between said last named angle irons and secured thereto, a smoothing blade mounted between said last named angle irons and arranged below the last named bars, a rear turntable connected to the fourth portions of the main frame and also operatively connected to the rear runner section, a lock pin for said rear turntable, cables engaging said main frame and connected to said front and rear runner sections, first, second and third horizontally disposed spaced parallel tubular support members extending between the third portions of the frame and secured thereto, support pieces affixed to said first support member brackets affixed to said support pieces, pulleys supported by said brackets; vertically disposed uprights affixed to said second support member, yokes affixed to said uprights and said yokes including upper and lower pieces interconnected by vertically disposed element, cradles pivotally connected to said uprights, support pieces affixed to said second support member and extending upwardly therefrom, brackets connected to said last named support pieces and said last named brackets having pulleys journaled thereon, a counterweight adapted to selectively engage said cradles, lines connected to said counterweight and engaging the last named pulleys, a pair of spaced parallel beams having said lines connected thereto, a scraper blade affixed to said beams, guide members mounted at the ends of the scraper blade, bearing members affixed to said scraper blade and said bearing members having trunnions thereon, a pair of spaced parallel side pieces affixed to the inner surfaces of the third portions of the frame and said side pieces having said last named trunnions pivotally connected thereto, base pieces connected to the lower surfaces of the side pieces, rods connected to said cradles, bearing units operatively connected to said rods and said bearing units being pivotally connected to said yokes, coil spring circumposed on said rods, hydraulic cylinders connected to said second support member, piston rods connected to said cylinders, bell cranks pivotally connected to the fourth portions of the frame, and said bell cranks being connected to said piston rods, and wheels connected to said bell cranks.

White, U.S. Pat. No. 3,739,859 describes a lightweight snow leveler for redefining snowmobile trails incorporating an elongated rectangular frame having front and rear traveling skis. The frame mounts a leading series of snow pulverizing discs and trailing cooperating sets of snow-shifting blades alternately rolling the pulverized snow inward, then outward and finally inward so as to provide a soft redefined trail.

Pease, U.S. Pat. No. 3,779,319 describes a trailer for breaking and pulverizing crusty and/or icy snow cover on a ski slop comprising a frame provided with wheels by means of which it may be transported over open roads and/or bare ground to a ski slope and skis for traversing the slope. The trailer frame has on it a motor-driven drum to which are attached a plurality of chain flails having at their distal ends beaker elements for cutting through the hard cover, and there are adjustable mounting members connecting the skis to the frame so as to enable raising and lowering the frame and hence the drum relative to the skis so that on the one hand the drum may be supported above and spaced from the snow cover to permit the flails to be turned at a rapid rate about the axis of the cylinder and to cause the breaker elements at their ends to break through the crust and on the other hand may be lowered into substantial engagement with the cover to cause the flails to become traction elements between the drum and the cover.

Maxey, U.S. Pat. No. 4,056,328 describes an apparatus for grooming snowmobile trails towed by a dirigible tracked vehicle and including a generally horizontal main frame, a gooseneck hitch supporting the forward end of the frame in towing engagement with the tracked vehicle, a packing roller supporting the rear end of the frame which serves to pack the snow being groomed, a moldboard scraper mounted between the packing roller and the gooseneck hitch which serves to scrape and level the snow being groomed, and a cutting blade assembly mounted forwardly of the moldboard scraper cuts, breaks and moves snow to fill in grooves and level ridges. A floating pan secured to the rear end of the main frame smoothes the snow following packing by the roller. The snow breaking and cutting blade assembly includes a pair of opposed, spaced-apart cutting blades pivotally secured to the frame and inclined inwardly and rearwardly, and a central V-shaped cutting blade pivotally secured to the frame with the apex thereof directed forwardly. The inner free ends of the inclined blades and the apex of the V-shaped blade are coordinated for raising and lowering to cause the apex of the V-shaped blade to swing oppositely to the free ends of the inclined blades for purposes of controlling the flow of snow through the frame to the moldboard scraper and packing roller.

Olson, U.S. Pat. No. 4,244,662 describes a snow grooming device for leveling a snowmobile trail comprising a frame having retractable wheels for transporting the snow grooming device and a set of angled blades which direct the snow back and forth across the trail to a leveler bar that directs the snow to a compacter attachment.

Niemela, U.S. Pat. No. 4,520,582 describes an apparatus for making ski trails which is towed and comprises a drag having a cutter unit and a snow crushing unit mounted behind the cutter unit on the drag. The units have radial blades and rotate about an axis transverse to the direction of travel of the apparatus. The cutter unit derives its rotary motion from the tamped track of the snow and is connected by a transmission to the crushing unit whereby the latter derives its rotary motion from the cutter unit.

Scheibel et al., U.S. Pat. No. 4,523,398 describes an apparatus for forming cross country ski tracks in a snow covered surface having a trailer frame adapted to be connected to the rear end of a vehicle. A lifting frame is connected to the trailer frame for pivotal movement about a first horizontal axis. The lifting frame has a pair of parallel guide members extending longitudinally from the trailer frame to a transversally extending crossbar. The guide members are arranged symmetrically on opposite sides of a central axis common to the lifting frame, the trailer frame, and the vehicle. At least one cross country ski track forming device is connected to the crossbar for pivotal movement about a second horizontal axis. A positioning device is connected between the trailer frame and the lifting frame. The positioning device pivotally manipulates the lifting frame about the first horizontal axis between an operative position at which the track forming device extends rearwardly from the trailer frame to contact and impress tracks in the snow covered surface, and an inoperative position at which the track forming device is elevated from the snow covered surface and is folded over the trailer frame.

Wieland et al., U.S. Pat. No. 4,559,725 describes a rotary tiller for maintaining cross country ski trails having a rotary shaft with at least one array of radially extending first cutters flanked by laterally adjacent arrays of radially extending second cutters. The radial lengths of the first cutters are greater than the radial lengths of the second cutters. The first cutters are arranged to till a center ski track and the second cutters are arranged to till pole tracks on either side of the ski track, with the ski tracks having a tilled depth greater than that of the pole tracks.

Emanuel, U.S. Pat. No. D393,233 describes a combined sled and wagon.

Beeley, WO81/03353 describes a vehicle drawn snow tiller for loosening, cutting, grinding, packing and leveling a wide path of snow for improved, more enjoyable skiing. The tiller comprises an elongated rotary snow cutter assembly with radially projecting snow cutting blades distributed over the length and about the circumference of a cutter tube directly powered by reversible hydraulic motors, one mounted upon each of its ends. The snow is cut, selectably, in or away from the direction of travel of the tiller over the snow. An elongate apron disposed over the cutter assembly collects and directs the loose cut snow onto the surface behind the cutter assembly, where it is compacted by the apron and finally leveled and smoothed by a horizontal grooming bar on the trailing edge of the apron. An elongate snow splitting baffle may be disposed above the cutter to deflect a portion of the cut snow forward to fall again into the path of the reversely rotating cutter for additional cutting and grinding. The cutter assembly may comprise two segments and flexibly coupled at the center of the tiller to facilitate fabrication and assembly of the tiller, and to alleviate the effects of shock to the cutter. Each segment may be similarly coupled to one of the motors.

Sinykin, WO98/52658 describes a snow tiller for ski slopes having rotating cutter bars with outstanding teeth. The cutter bars are each installed beneath a cover which directs the snow rearwardly to a smoothing comb. Each cover is adjustable in geometry to provide either greater of less angle of entry of the snow beneath the snow comb, and the change of angle is coordinated with changes in depth of snow cutting by the cutter bar teeth. A double acting hydraulic cylinder and ram assemble links cutter bar mounting frames and is used to control the longitudinal angles of the cutter bars upon the snow.

The prior art teaches the use of towed vehicles for grooming the surface of a snow field, but does not teach such an apparatus with vertically positionable blades for selecting a depth of cut in the snow within a path of travel. The present invention fulfills these needs and provides further related advantages as described in the following summary.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention teaches certain benefits in construction and use which give rise to the objectives described below.

A snow grooming apparatus is adapted for being drawn by a towing vehicle on a snow surface such as a ski slope. A drawing yolk engages the towing vehicle and pivots on a main chassis of the apparatus. The main chassis rides on a pair of spaced apart runners and supports plural snow shearing blades which are angled for directing snow laterally with respect to the center of the apparatus. An hydraulic actuating system is adapted for vertically positioning a ski centered with respect to the runners and forward of the center of mass of the main chassis. Thus, when this ski is extended downwardly, the main chassis and the snow shearing blades are raised. A pair of wheels of a secondary chassis are movable such that the main chassis may be supported above a snow or road surface between the pair of wheels and the hitching means. Alternately, the pair of wheels may be drawn up, above the surface with the main chassis supported on its runners when the ski is raised. The apparatus, when running on a snow field or along a trail, smoothes the snow surface. The blades shear off the peaks and move this now loose snow laterally back and forth between the runners so as to fill-in the valleys and thus leave a relatively smooth surface. The rear end of the chassis is weighted placed in contact with the surface to smooth the trail.

A primary objective of the present invention is to provide an apparatus and method of use of such apparatus that provides advantages not taught by the prior art.

A further primary objective is to provide such an apparatus having a forwardly positioned vertically adjustable ski, capable of raising the forward portion of the apparatus to change the relationship between a plow blade and the surface of a snow field or trail.

Another objective is to provide such an invention capable of running on snow or over a hard surface.

A further objective is to provide such an invention capable of smoothing the surface of a snow field over which it is drawn.

A still further objective is to provide such an invention capable of remote control of the vertical positions of its several operating parts.

Other features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following more detailed description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, which illustrate, by way of example, the principles of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings illustrate the present invention. In such drawings:

FIG. 1 is a partial rear perspective view of the preferred embodiment of the invention apparatus;

FIG. 2 is a partial front perspective view thereof.

FIGS. 3-5 are side elevational views thereof;

FIG. 6-8 are partial side elevational views thereof particularly showing a ski in fully retracted (FIG. 6), partially extended (FIG. 7) and fully extended (FIG. 8) positions;

FIG. 9 is an illustrative schematic diagram of a top plan view showing the manner in which snow is moved, see arrows, through the apparatus.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The above described drawing figures illustrate the invention in at least one of its preferred embodiments, which is further defined in detail in the following description.

The present invention is a snow grooming apparatus adapted for being drawn by a towing vehicle over a snow surface 8. It's primary use is found as a grooming device for snowmobile trails where snowmobile tracks and ski ruts in the snow surface 8 must be smoothed and groomed. However, the invention is highly useful for smoothing ski slopes and similar surfaces as well.

The invention includes a hitching means 10, which is preferably a Y-shaped yoke adapted for engaging a towing vehicle 20, such as a truck or tracked vehicle (not part of the invention). As shown in FIG. 2, the hitching means 10 generally comprises a standard coupling ring 12 positioned at the end of the Y-shaped yoke or hitch assembly 14 pivotally joined with a chassis 30 of the apparatus. The pivot pins are shown at 16. The chassis 30 provides opposing and spaced apart runners 32 directed along the line of travel and adapted by their structural integrity and physical position for supporting the main chassis 30 as it travels on the snow surface 8. The chassis 30 further provides at least one pair of snow shearing blades 34, as best seen in FIG. 9, and these are angled for directing snow toward the center of the apparatus. Preferably, further snow shearing blades 36 and positioned between the blades 34 as shown in FIG. 9. Notice that as snow is moved laterally it is generally confined to the space between the runners 32. Thus, loose snow that is sheared from snow mounds is moved about to fill ruts caused by snowmobiles, skis, snowboards, etc.

A secondary chassis 40 is pivotally engaged with and extends rearwardly of the chassis 30, and preferably terminates with a pair of wheels 42 positioned for trailing the chassis 30.

Alternately, one or more than two wheels may be employed as will be apparent to those of skill in the art. A pivotal axis 44 is shown in FIG. 1.

A ski 38 is medially positioned in the chassis 30 and is vertically positionable using ski fixing means 54. The snow shearing blades 36, as is illustrated in FIG. 9 are vertically positionable relative to the surface 8 through the use of ski fixing means 54 which drives ski 38 vertically. Ski 38, when lowered, is able to support the chassis 30 so that runners 32 are not in contact with surface 8 (FIGS. 7 and 8). Alternately, ski 38 may be raised to a fixed position so that the chassis is supported on runners 32 (FIGS. 3 and 4).

Likewise wheel fixing means 50 is able to move the wheels so as to lift the rearward end of the chassis 30 off the surface 8 (FIG. 5), and alternately lower it so that the wheels 42 are above the surface (FIG. 4).

In the same manner, fixing means 52 is able to move the hitching means so that the front end of the chassis 30 is off the surface 8, or alternately lowered onto it.

Therefore, as shown in FIGS. 5 and 6, vertical positioning of the chassis 30 is achieved through fixing means portions 50 and 52 when the wheels 42 are in contact with the surface 8. The fixing means 50 is able to move the secondary chassis 40 independently, so as to position the pair of wheels 42 in touch with the surface 8 (FIG. 5) or, alternately, in a retracted position (FIG. 4). FIGS. 3-5 show the various positions that the chassis 30 may acquire through the use of the fixing means 50 and 52 such that the main chassis 30 may be supported above the surface 8 between the pair of wheels 42 and the hitching means 10. FIG. 6 shows how the leading end of the main chassis 30 may be moved vertically via fixing means 52. The snow shearing blades 34 and 36 may be selectively vertically adjusted using fixing means 54 as shown in FIGS. 7 and 8 by vertically and selectively positioning and fixing the position of ski 38. Hitching means 10 may be adjusted to move freely about pivot pins 16 or, by engaging fixing means 52, hitching means 10 may be rigidly adjusted to lift the front end of the main chassis 30 so as to transfer a selected portion of the main chassis' 30 weight to the towing vehicle 20.

A storage box 60 is mounted rearwardly on the chassis as shown in FIG. 1. This box 60 provides a flat undersurface 62 and, with tools and other supplies being carried within, and with the weight of the secondary chassis 40, the rear portion of the chassis 30 provides a smooth and downwardly pressing force for grooming and smoothing the snow surface.

As previously described, the apparatus, when running on its runners 32 in a snow field or along a trail as depicted in FIGS. 4 and 8, encounters peaks and valleys, vis-à-vis, the level of the snow surface 8. The blades 34 and 36 shear off the peaks and move this, now loose, snow laterally back and forth between the runners 32 so as to fill-in the valleys and thus leave a relatively smooth surface. The bottom surface of the storage box 60 tends to smooth this surface further and compact it so that it is an improved snow surface for receiving recreational snow equipment such as snowmobiles, skies and snowboards. The lateral motions provided to the loose snow sheared by the various blades 34, 36 tends to break it down into smaller pieces and spread it out over the traversed surface 8.

Clearly, the details of operation of the fixing means 50, 52 and 54 has not been described here. However, the actuators are preferably common linear hydraulic cylinders joined by hydraulic lines in a well known manner easily enabled by one of skill in the art. Remote actuation from a pulling truck or track vehicle is also well known. It is believed that it will be quite clear to those of skill in the art as to how to make and use the invention from the above description taken with the several illustrations. To assure that this is so, the patent document of Olson, U.S. Pat. No. 4,244,662 is hereby incorporated into this disclosure by reference.

While the invention has been described with reference to at least one preferred embodiment, it is to be clearly understood by those skilled in the art that the invention is not limited thereto. Rather, the scope of the invention is to be interpreted only in conjunction with the appended claims.