Friday, December 4, 2009

Grooming 101.6

Still Working With Gravity
Yesterday's lesson on Gravity and Berm Control didn't have anything to say about controlling Berms when the snow starts getting seriously deep. What happens when the snow is soft, dry, and deeper than the Snowcat's tracks?

Berms happen, that's what! When there's more snow than Tillers can chew, Modern Grooming Equipment can't do the job in a single pass. Today's Grooming Machines do much better than their fore-bearers, but even the most skilled groomer in the latest machine can't break the laws of physics. Mother nature bats last, and sometimes she goes on a hitting streak that would make Joltin' Joe DiMaggio envious.

When the snow gets to the topside of the machine's tracks, there's no alternative to Double Passing, to get the desired surface. Production goes out the window, Back up Plans take effect and the hunkering down begins. Old Hands know that there's a long hard slog ahead, and take steps to endure.

There's much satisfaction to be extracted from Big Storm Periods, provided you mete out your energy over the duration of the storm. It's not just up on the Mountain where deep snow means harder work...and more of it! Getting back and forth to work gets more difficult, vehicles need shoveled off, digging out and de-icing. All these extra chores eat the minutes until they become hours, and everything becomes slower as the snow deepens.

Coping Skills
Enduring the increased workload means adjusting your output of energy, and eliminating wasteful action in favor of tried and true methods to soldier through.

Step One: Stop hurrying! There's an old saying about the "hurrier I go, the behinder I get" or some such, just set a steady, sustainable pace, and grind it out.

I've learned to manage my excitement over my years on the Mountain, because hard won experience has taught me that more than likely, I'll be in my cat come 2PM, rather than hitting the sack back at the DaveCave. So, you keep a lid on your emotions, try and help everyone you work with to cope nicely so they too can stay in the game over the long haul.

Yes, the best laid plans of mice and men...when the snow gets deep, why do so many otherwise sane, intelligent people start to lose IQ Points by the bushel? Unfortunately, in all my years up in the High Sierra, I've never been able to put my finger on this weird behavior quirk.

You learn to tune out the frenzy, but stay vigilant, because you don't want to let anyone around you get stupid enough to hurt themselves or others. It's always during these extended siege periods that, people find ways to injure themselves or others. The Fire Departments and all our Emergency Responders already have their hands full, so we don't want to get on their waiting list! Sadly, if a wide-eyed Flatlander is going to tangle with a Road Grader on the Highway, or a Snowblower in a driveway, it'll be during a busy Storm Siege.

Mountain Sanctuary
Step Two: When you get away from the Base Areas and the IQ Altered, there is peace up on the Hill. Double Passing takes more than twice as long as grooming less snow in a single pass, but it is no less satisfying...especially if you've just escaped the circus below! Again, you tune up your Balancing Act.

When it's this deep, there are a couple of ways to proceed, depending on weather you're working solo, or working in a Pack. When I'm working by myself, I'll make as big a first pass as I dare, and groom my trail as wide as time allows, then go back to the beginning, and re-groom the whole shebang. A little "set-up time" helps things turn out better when you go back an "chase" those big berms.

If I'm leading a pack, we'll make fat passes going downhill, and gently chase the berms on our way back uphill. If the trail doesn't set up enough to do that, I move the pack to the next trail for it's first passes, and then return to chase the berms on the first trail...repeat as necessary, your acreage may vary...

When the guests hit the slopes, my crew leave the mountain to them. Most of the crew calls it a day, the Old Hands take a break, regroup and refuel, and head out for more Storm Fighting.

We stay off the Mountain during the day, but there are tons of places around the mountain where Groomers can help lighten the load of the snow that's piling ever deeper. Lots of plowing and pushing eat up the hours...this is where a good stereo and mp3 players come in handy. These gadgets help the time pass while keeping boredom at bay. Before you know it, it's afternoon and the body starts making it's needs known. Bedtime beckons, and you can veto the drive to rest for a few days, but as with all things worth doing, eventually you must succumb to nature and call it a shift.

The sleep you get after this kind of shift is deep, but the alarm clock goes off as soon as your head hits the pillow. Time to get up and do it all over again. We do this for days on end when the storm door is wide open…believe me, all the Old Hands live for this stuff!

Hard Work…Good Times.

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