Sunday, November 29, 2009

Grooming 101.3

Friday Night Follies
As I write tonight, Chain Controls are up on Interstate 80. Here's the kicker from CalTrans' Road Info Page:

The storm somehow missed the Donner Summit/Tahoe Westshore Area almost entirely! Sugar Bowl's LiveCam shows some flurry action, but the CalTrans webcam at the Truck Inspection Station show heavier snowfall. Northstar is getting snow. Boreal's webcam hasn't updated since Thanksgiving Afternoon...

SisterSweetly called from Humboldt County reporting clearing skies, and really cold temps. The Reno AFD said the cold would set in for several days once the front passed. Perhaps High Sierra Snowmaking Crews will bank some Overtime this week. Mother Nature seems unwilling to contribute any precipitation for the next week, so 'Pray for Cold"

Back To Work
Now we can get to the business of grooming the Mountain. Today's modern, powerful Groomers are capable of high degrees of production, even when the new fallen snow is deep. There's no substitute for Horsepower goes the old saying.

My BR350 is so named because it's powered by a 350HP Caterpillar Electronic Diesel. This engine is powerful, has plenty of torque, and runs almost without odor. It's an amazing machine.

After a thorough checkout and walkaround, the cat's all warmed up, and the fuel's topped up, it's time to go grooming. Enter the Work Orders.

The best way to improve productivity in a Groomer, is to follow a good plan. The Work Orders are that plan. Long years of development went into creation of tonight's Work Orders. They are simple, really...Start at the beginning, and go down the "List" The trails are groomed in a sequence that minimizes extra passes, avoids grooming passes that have already been groomed tonight, and organized in such a way as to require the least amount of backing up, and fixing Turn Ruts.

Groomers only make Corduroy when they are moving forward, and grooming over fresh Corduroy doesn't make any New Corduroy. Following the List minimizes waste, and maximizes production.

Following the List, leads the Grooming Crews from one end of the Mountain to the other. Factored into the List are travel times from each of the Mountain's Six Peaks to the Vehicle Shop, where the Diesel Fuel Pumps refuel the fleet. At top speed, going in to refuel can be a 45 minute round trip. The List ensures these trips are never made. As the List is completed from top to bottom, each trail checked off the list brings the fleet closer to the Shop. Unless unforseen drama interrupts the smooth execution of the list, the Swing Shift should finish their work load and be at the Shop, refueling just in time for the Shift Change.

All the Secondary Trails, ramps, Maze Areas, and Special Projects are done on Swing Shift. Once the Graveyard Crew is in their cats, they head out and complete the List. Usually, there's several Secondaries still to do, before the Homeruns are groomed. The Homeruns are where all the Secondary Trails end on their way back to the bottom of each Chairlift. Turning Ruts, made by snowcats grooming up and down the Secondary trails are filled and tilled when the Homeruns get Groomed. No extra moves required.

Swing Shift grooms a little less than half of each night's acreage. Because the Swing Shift does so many detailed tasks, and the Ramp Cat travels from one end to the other of the Mountain to prepare each ramp, they "set the table" for the Graveyard Crew. With all the pesky details and special projects complete, the Graveyard Guys just make Corduroy...full speed ahead. On good nights, this is non-stop fun (and non-stop production) We call this "Hero Snow" anyone who can drive in a clean line makes tons of beautiful Corduroy.

Graveyard follows the List too, and it leads them to the bottom of the Mountain in time to make any last minute "touch-ups" around the Lifts and Lodges before our Guests begin to stream onto the Mountain.

The list also moves us closer and closer to the Vehicle Shop, until the whole crew in on the last Peak of the night, where we race the clock for the last precious acres of production before we sneak off the mountain just as the crowds begin to load the Last Peak Chairlift.

It's a beautiful thing when the whole crew is firing on all cylinders, the Hero Snow cooperates, and the day dawns sunny and blue! I never get tired of it all when we have nights like this. Every operator gets out of his cat back at the shop with a big ol' Grin on their face, and there's plenty of whoopin' and hollerin' about how great life is...It just doesn't get any better than that!

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