Saturday, December 26, 2009

Makin' Corduroy

We had another good night. Everything ran fine, we rebuilt a bunch of trouble spots, and opened some new passes with ManMade snow. We opened the last two of our lifts in anticipation of epic crowds for the Holiday Week.

Another storm front is wandering around nearby, so there was wispy cloud cover obscuring the Milky Way. Temperatures were up overnight, but still decent snowmaking conditions prevailed. The darn TV Weatherman in Sacramento, said there's a chance of snow every night this whole week! Doesn't he know that we're in a New Grooming Machine Sweepstakes?! We need lots of skier visits...through the whole week!

The Real Weatherman, at the Reno NWS Office, says: we might get 2-5 inches overnight tonight, and maybe some light snow flurries in the middle of the week...not a word about every day this week! I hope the TV Guy's exuberance doesn't keep the folks at home and off my Mountain! (OK, in the Local Forecast the NWS does say slight chance, but the Reno AFD doesn't quibble with trifles!)

I've got a couple more nights to go in my six-day week...there's some issues with some of my tractors that need addressing, but because these are Stereo Problems, they fall pretty low on the hierarchy of the Vehicle Maintenance Crew...They don't spend ten hours a night in their machines! I think the stereos got reinstalled, without the antennas getting plugged in! D'oh!

Now that the daytime temps are up into the thirties, the pack is getting firmer every day. We already miss the frigid temps that dried the pack for the days after the last snowfall. Once the pack gets firm, the stereos wont play CDs without skipping, so radio is all we've got! Thankfully, the FM Transmitters for iPods reach the stereos from three feet away!

I'll get to work 15 minutes early tonight, and pull the headliner of my cat and see if my diagnosis is accurate. Sunday mornings are when I tune in NPR for my weekly dose of liberal pop-culture...I can't miss it!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Spirit

I watched for Santa...all night. He's sneaky that one! I didn't see the slightest glimmer of Rudolph's Nose, even with crystal clear skies. The Milky Way shone like a Christmas Garland on an Infinite Christmas Tree.

We had a quiet and pleasant shift. The cold air hanging in the area since the last pulse of weather has made the grooming go faster each night, as the frigid regime seems to "dry" the pack a little each day. I got to open some new terrain after sunrise, and the fleet ran sweetly without incident.

Today the whole fleet was running great at the end of our night, and all the cats were parked together around the power pole that runs the onboard heating systems while the groomers are shut down. After I shoveled off my trusty steed, and did a walk around to check for problems, I looked at the fleet and broke into a beaming smile, shouting to the Guys: "Look at this Fleet!" "Is this the best fleet we've ever had?"

I realized that Santa had been here, it just took a brilliant Christmas Morning among the Tractors to see his work. It looked like this: Two BR350's, two Bisons (One with the X Package) and two Sherpa Winches (Sherpas are BR350s w/ the Tower Winch), and one Ferrari Red Park Bully!

Christmas Eve we did 2400 visits, but today should be a Ghost Town. However, tomorrow we should see 5000-6000 happy guests. Sunday too...the Weatherman keeps downsizing the next little system...I think it's been downgraded to a kerfuffle now...

Man O Man! We are looking so good in the New Snowcat Sweepstakes! There's talk about running one less shift when we add another BR350/BisonX...I reminded the excited bigwigs that "all that magic goes out the window when a foot or more falls"...
Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I'm rootin' for the Home Team! Go Guys, Go!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

C-Note Already!

Here is my 100th blog! Looking over the past four months, I owe you readers an apology! Of the now 100 posts, more than half have strayed far afield of my Mission Statement...too much fishing, cooking, and whining about the weather forecast...not enough nuts and bolts grooming stuff.

Going forward, I promise to stick to the template...this might be easier now that I'm back in my Snowcat five nights a week. However, the sad reality is, I don't possess a disciplined mind like my Father and the scores of the more successful around me. I guess you could say I'm Reactive, not Pro-Active. Not always, but "being in the moment" is my Default Setting...being a Baby Boomer is a curse in many ways!

Last night, I returned to work after an overwrought "weekend" of struggling with issues at the DaveCave, and accomplishing nothing on my "To Do" list.

Walking up the Shop Road from the Groomer's Parking Lot, I was greeted by the worst possible sight...three new BR350 snowcats parked forlornly outside the Vehicle Shop in various states of disrepair...unfortunately, included in the sad rogue's gallery was my favorite machine...sigh...In it's stead, I did my first shift in our brand new Bison with the "X" only had 137 hours on the clock when I left the shop in her.

The Boss was at the shop, with his kneepads on, doing his best impression of a Vehicle Mechanic. The hand-off between Swing and Grave was a sad affair to say the least...we had more operators than we had cats for them to operate.

When the nights like this one conspire against the Grooming Crew, someone always says: "Moma said there'd be days like this"...Oh, I thought it, but didn't utter a word. The second year guys were pressed into service as Snowmaker Shock Troops pending the mending of their machines. A fair East Wind was upon us, and the mercury was in the teens...but the good snowmaking conditions were small compensation!

With clear, cold conditions, conditions were "fast"...just this side of "Hero Snow" as a matter of fact, but getting enthused when half the crew isn't contributing is outside of Accepted Groomer's Etiquette. Those of us still standing soldiered on, pending the arrival of the Graveyard Mechanic...

About the time the Graveyard Wrench punched in, another cat went down...a new winchcat lost it's winch, and while trying to remedy his troubles, he managed to loose a track as well! Fortunately, his cable wasn't crossing the whole Peak! This time I didn't allow myself to even think: "Moma said..."

With the handwriting on the wall, I wielded my trusty blue pencil, and fashioned a "Silk Purse Solution" from the "Sow's Ears" hand we were dealt.

Fortunately, Tuesday's 3600 Guests didn't do that much damage to the piste, and with good cold temps, the Workorders were reasonable...and highly customizable!

Around 5AM, one of the "Forlorn Three" went back online, and an operator was driven to the shop to warm it up and join the crew on the Mountain!

Well, I'm happy to report that my guys pulled another rabbit out of the hat! We got most of the list completed in time, and the edits weren't critical...I handed the Bison X over to the Park Groomer when I went in to refuel at 0700, and called it a day.

Our Guests would have plenty of Fresh Corduroy Groomers to please them, and more snowmaking helped the Park Crew in the building of our Pro Terrain Parks!

I got home so early, that I needed to kill hours before I could do my Reno errands. Nice weather continues through the Weekend, so the Mountain is looking good for the New Grooming Machine Sweepstakes!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Down Time/Days Off

Life never seems to follow my plan. Having a well thought out plan smoothes rough roads and increases productivity. So when Life Happens (while you're making other plans) it can be disconcerting...

Take today for example. A Simple Plan...stay up all night, do a load of laundry, and run errands in Reno while the clothes dry. All done before the little impulse of stormy weather makes driving a hassle Monday afternoon!

Simplicity itself...until reality set in. When the rinse and spin finished, I saw water on the floor under the laundry stack. Problem noted...soapy water on laundry closet floor...Simple. Mop it up, run the dryer, go to Reno.

OK, all done, and I hit the Dryer's Start Button...Nothing (except the 60 cycle hum of a stuck motor in the dryer)! Damn!

Here's where the "Best Laid Plans..." went off the rails. The "Laundry Room" in the DaveCave is really a small closet that does triple duty as the "Cleaning Closet", the "Laundry Room" and the "Pantry". There's no way to get into said closet to affect repairs, so all the stuff on the shelves, on the floor, and on top of the Laundry Stack need to be relocated. Next, disconnect both the water supply hoses, the 240V power plug, the washer drain and the dryer vent hose, and remove the shelving before walking the unit out of the closet and into the relative spaciousness of the entry hallway.

While hauling the stock out, I noticed the chewed hole through the plastic dryer vent hose....Hmm, critters...

Once I had the stack in the hall, my diagnosis began. I could only turn the dryer drum in one direction...something was jamming up the works... firing up my trusty Mini-Maglite, I peered into the dryer's exhaust and I saw a thicket of pine cones crammed into the end of the exhaust tact! These were "spent" pine cones...that is, the pine nuts had already been harvested by the furry little woodland creature prior to stashing his cache. The squirrel had jammed them into the squirrel cage fan that pushes the hot air through the dryer drum. I removed seven in all, but not before I totally disassembled the lion's share of the back of the dryer! All in all, it took me all afternoon to get 'er done...Reno will be there tomorrow...or Wednesday...

Whatta mess! A bushel of lint, mixed with a half dozen+ pine cones, and a side of Popcorn Kernels...ahh, nature. I remembered my landlord's wife had been engaged in a pitched battle with the local squirrels this Summer and Fall, as were most folks living in Truckee...Traps, Repellent Devices, and Poison Baits were all back ordered in every Truckee Hardware Store this year.

I wrote about the Folksy Nature Weather Forecast Analogs this summer...not exactly onion skins, or woolly worm coats, but locally celebrated all the same. Time will tell if this Winter lives up the the little critters' predictions.

Oh, the dryer's fixed. The laundry is dry and folded.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


I just got off the Mountain. My first week back in my tractor is now in the books. My crew kicked ass last fact, I parked it at 06:30! Work orders completed, warmer conditions overnight made for Firm Pack Hero Conditions.

Sleep deprivation aside, It was an auspicious first week back for TruckeeDave.

Wednesday night, I checked out and warmed up my faithful Prinoth BR350, only to find the Operator's Throne all snafu-ed. No longer sliding front to back, there was enough room behind the seat for my ample carcass, but not enough room in front of the throne to commit to a 10 hour shift.

I jumped ship after 20 minutes to a newer, shiny Bison instead. (The Bison is a Prinoth BR350 with a few popular updates) A longer stinger carries a High Lift Tiller, the Pumps and Motors are Rexroth's instead of the Sunstrands in the basic BR350, and the blade is a little more aggressive. Bison's are really nice tractors, but my three year old BR350 fits me like a comfortable old T-Shirt, and she's never let me down while doing more work than I ever imagined possible.

I whined at everyone who'd listen, wrote it all up on the Checkout Sheet, and lo and behold, the seat was fixed, and I finished my week in her...on Hero Snow to boot! As Steinbeck wrote in "Cannery Row": "Once again the world was spinning in greased grooves"

As is usual for hard working snowcats, not every onboard system was online...The radio was not receiving any radio signals. Undaunted, I rigged up my iPod and it's FM Transmitter and the Pioneer pulled it in fine. Diagnosis? Unplugged antenna to the Stereo. I wrote it up, along with profuse kudos and thanks to the mechanics for repairing the seat.

To recap: A short night to finish my first week...back in my favorite Groomer of All Time, grooming Hero Snow, listening to Jeff Beck, Stevie Wonder, and a bunch of Podcasts via the new iPod, and wrapping it up by 06:30...Priceless!

I get two days off before the real Christmas Holidays Grind. Everyone works Six Days this week! Business has been good so far this week, a quick storm is forecast to sweeten the pot Monday into Tuesday...just the thing to pump up the public's SkiLust!

We're playing for a New Bison this week! The Big Boss said we will buy another new Bison this season if we do well over the Christmas Holidays...the outlook is good my friends!

On my way home this morning, I had to pull over to photograph the "Red Skies In Morning" scene...beautiful!