Sunday, August 16, 2009

Days Off

Yes, the weekend! Weekends have much to recommend in the Sun, sliding down mountains, fishing for Wild Halibut on a beautiful Bay...there's no end to the diversions available.

Weekends for the Ski Industry are the foundation upon which Empires are built. In a Perfect World, Weekend Warriors pour up Mountain Highways, eager to experience the Comfortable Freedoms we provide for the price of a Lift Ticket.

Across the Range, Resort Marketing People issue fax reports to TV and Radio outlets that serve the region. Radio Hosts record telephone interviews with said Marketing Folks. Ski Patrollers hit the Mountain early to make it safe and comfy for guests, and Lift Operators fine-tune their ramps, mazes, and safety closures. All this happens near the beginning of the Skier's Day, and during the Home Stretch for my Graveyard Crew.

All night long, the Grooming Crew has been out on the Mountain, cutting bumps, moving snow, rebuilding ramps and mazes, covering rocks and bridging creeks, pushing ManMade snow where it's needed, and finishing it all off with a sweet, smooth patina of Corduroy.

During the night, the Groomers are Masters of their Domain, out in their cats alone on the Mountain, with only Allies out there doing similar duties from Peak to Peak. The Mountain is devoid of skiers, snowboarders, hikers and their Golden Retrievers, and Day Shift Personnel. The Snowcat Operators are free to give their total attention to the task at hand, becoming totally absorbed by the ebb and flow of the projects they're working to complete. On a good night, the equipment purrs through the shift without a moment's hesitation, allowing the Guys to become their true Mountain Michelangelo, sculpting safe Peak Experience Playgrounds for our Guests...Grooming Nirvana is Good.

My crew returns to This Mortal Coil once the Day Shift starts making their way onto the Mountain. Childhood's End...every morning.

After a Nirvana Night, this transition isn't tough, the Guys are energized and happily tuned into the World. When the night's been an Epic Battle, and as the sky gets brighter with the storm still pounding, the Guys are about to start really earning their pay.

Snow Days start earlier than regular days. Workers start making their way to the Mountain as early as 4AM. The early birds all need Corduroy to walk to work on, to drive their snowmobiles up to every Chairlift Terminal without getting stuck on, and on out to each Weather Study Station across the Mountain.

The nights when Mother Nature is giving the Groomers a sound thrashing, the Work Orders grow longer by the hour, with many critical tasks corralled into the hours after sunrise, but before Opening, to insure a Good Night's Sleep for our Slopeside Guests.

Lifts must be "Dug Out" for chair clearance, Ramps and Mazes need to be regraded and tilled anew, and Lodges need snow removed and groomed at entrances and stairways, Ski School meeting areas and pedestrian thoroughfares need compaction and a fresh till...all these tasks are performed with workers on the snow doing their jobs, and guests streaming in bent on playing hard. Usually this drama plays out seamlessly...drama-free really, but disaster is always hovering just off stage, waiting to ruin somebody's day.

When groomers end their day doing this kind of duty, they get out of their machines feeling like they've worked a whole shift since the sun came up! During extended storm periods, the Guys do battle day after day, and we slowly become aware of a growing "Bone Weariness". This Beaten Body Syndrome, is sustainable for a while, after all groomers live for the battle, but as we start tallying more snow days, the body fatigue starts to become mental fatigue. When the Guys get here, I feel it too...adjustments must be made, a full recharge must begin.

Days Off save lives.

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