I'm torn again. I want Fall to last into December so I can finish my many projects here at the Ancestral Digs, and enjoy some more carefree days fishing and crabbing. Then I look at the webcams with the images of Snowmaking Fans going Full-Bore, blanketing My Mountain's first scheduled trail with a base to open on. My daily cyber-expeditions to weather websites are priming the pump. All this has me feeling like a pinball in a hot game ready to flash *TILT*
This is all new to me, despite the fact that I've anticipated Ski Seasons since the late 70's So, what's different this time around? This Fall I'm writing about it five days a week.
It's like the scene from Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" where Alex is undergoing Aversion Therapy in Prison. In a straitjacket, strapped into a seat in a Movie Theater Seat, Alex is forced to view violent images meant to de-sensitize his psyche's penchant for "a bit of the ol' UltraViolence" The detail that gave me the heebie-geebies was the shiny stainless steel wire devices the Prison Therapists used to keep Alex's eyelids open...the flesh crawls to this day when I recall the images...powerful film making.
I've been the Alex Character in my own production this Fall, focusing daily on the coming season with regimentation like I've never practiced before. Don't look away...keep your eye on the ball, as they say.
Now, I've been your stereotypical "Cockeyed Optimist" my whole life. Save for a period of Teenage Angst, and one rare "Celebrated Blue Period", my world has always been Sunny, the glasses always Half Full, with the road ahead rising up to meet me. I suspect that Optimists by nature subconsciously manage their outlook for Sunshine Daydream Nirvana. No harm, no foul as they say. My beef is just the Timing really...not anything to get high blood pressure over.
This morning, I scanned the web for intel on the Snowmaking progress towards My Mountain's Target Opening Date. The Reno NWS Forecast Discussion said their models finally came into alignment or agreement after several days of divergent discord. The next fronts are forecast to miss us to the east, but bring in a colder regime once past. That's good for Snowmaking, bad for Procrastinating Optimists.
I'm an Old School Groomer...my youngster operators probably think I'm a Dinosaur, but I am still into the Battle. Opening the Mountain is work, period. It's not the Heroic Battle with Mother Nature to open at 8:45 on a Big Powder Day.
Pushing whales of sloppy ManMade out onto bare dirt and rock a few feet at a time is back breaking toil, even sitting in the throne of a modern 350HP Snowcat with the stereo blasting. When the pack is measured in inches atop bare ground, it's an all day Geology Lesson. You feel every rock and stone...every grouser transmits the hits to the cat in the cab. Eight hours of this makes me think of Prizefighters absorbing body punches...no Rope-A-Dope here. Every move you make is measured, deliberate, you're holding your cat back, and you can't give in to your desire to just "let it fly"
Snowcats do "fly"...when there's plenty of snow under the tracks. Hit a stump or rock, and you get jarred big-time...seat belts mandatory.
Until a couple of feet of "Sierra Cement" falls on the hill, Snowmakers and Groomers grind it out. We earn it, a foot or two at a time...all night, all day until there's enough to open a lift and a trail. Next up, two trails...until Mother Nature kicks down a real snow storm that dumps feet on the Mountain.
Now the fun begins! Phone calls go out to the Crew, cats are warmed up, and the prospecting begins in earnest. Cats head out to every trail and Track-Pack the new snow. Track packing is grooming without Corduroy...ie no rear implements. The goal it to compact as much new snow on as many trails as conditions will allow. The snow is less likely to blow away when the winds turn North or East...at least in theory...when the East Winds start to howling, the Mountain looks like a National Geographic Cover Photo of the Himalayas, with streams of snow flying off into the sky.
Once there's track-pack on the Homerun Trails, and there's enough snow to push, then the Crew gets to start building stuff. Creeks and rock-lined swales need to be bridged. Building Roads, Ramps and Mazes take lots of snow, so all take lots of farming.
In Groomer-Speak, "Farming" means scraping a little snow off the top of a large area of a run and pushing it to where it's needed. Given enough snow, farming can mean sneaking out into the trees and quarrying snow to push onto trails for coverage or building projects. When I'm doing serious farming, I don't even hear my stereo...at least not consciously...farming takes 100% concentration on the task at hand...the hours fly by...you get in The Zone.
The Zone is good...time flies when you're having fun. I'm wearing my sly smile just thinking about it. I'll be in The Zone soon, I won't be Alex in a Kubrick Flick, and I wont have to dig for something to write about!