Saturday, January 2, 2010


Happy New Year everybody! I didn't have a full view of the Fireworks last night, I was off in the trees when the shooting started...coaxing a cold tractor to warm up enough to move it. One of my guys called in sick...with a broken arm! Yikes!! We had a huge list, and snow was forecast to begin around 4AM...It looked like trouble from the get-go. So warming up and gettin' out the door trumped watching the show.

Fortunately, conditions were ideal for production...SuperHero Snow! My productivity was up 33% over the previous night. We ended up omitting three secondary runs, but we groomed more than enough for a New Years Day...usually soft on attendance...late arriving guests don't see much corduroy anyway. The snow did come at 04:30, and it was wet, so "crowds" might not be the operative word anyway.

With the warp speed production, we had it wrapped up before 8AM, so I phoned the Mountain's IT Goddess and asked if this morning was a good time to get my iPod Touch to talk to the Mountain's WiFi Networks. She said yes, where are you? and came out to my cat parked near her office...In no time, I was checking out the NOAA Radar Images, while still warm and dry in the throne of my favorte Grooming Machine! What a world we've made! Our IT Goddess wanted my opinion on smartphones, so I opined on phones before our conversation turned to weather forecasting.

IT Goddess moved to Reno this year, so she's got a serious commute to the Mountain now. She checks the NOAA Website for the forecast each morning to chose which car to drive up the hill...the thrifty little Subaru, or the big rugged SUV guzzler. I hated to be the bearer of bad news, but I told her that the Reno NWS Office's Lead Forecaster retired Thursday after 35 years of service. I gave her the thumbnail of the PDO Shift, and the troubles the weather forecasters have with La Niña regime modeling and forecasting. I said: You should also be reading the AFD when you look at the Zone'll get invaluable insight that'll help you weigh the forecasts against your observations, for better confidence in the forecasts.

She's in a good position to get the inside skinny on the weather because one of her house mates works for the Desert Research Institute, and her other roomie is a scientist at the University of Nevada-Reno, in the Seismology Department. I'm going to meet these folks this year too!

The DRI is all about the weather in our region, and they do cross-pollinate with the NWS Office as well...I'm looking forward to talkin local climate and weather with these folks...I hope I don't Geek Out badly enough to embarrass myself! Who am I kidding? I'll be Geekin' 'till the cows come home!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Back In The Groove

I spent my shift in my favorite tractor last night. You know, she's like a favorite old T-Shirt really...we're simpatico, and a great team. This is our fourth season together...she's got 6100 trouble-free hours on the clock now...that's a couple of megatons of corduroy and plowing!

No weather last night to speak of, clear roads, and a whole bunch of projects needed to be done for the Mountain's New Years Eve Festivities. There's just something about Fireworks over a Ski Resort that really says: Happy New Year!

These festivities are bittersweet for me now because I used to get to work early enough on New Years Eve to warm up a machine and head uphill to a Prime Viewing Location, where I'd tune in the Live Radio Broadcast of the Grateful Dead's New Years Eve Show on the stereo, and watch the pyrotechnic display...always a peak event. Godspeed Jerry...sadly, these days I just step outside the Groomer's Locker Room, and watch the show from the parking to the fuel dock...sans tunes...sigh...

On the bright side, the skiers just keep coming this month! Yesterday it was howling when we finished our shift...Overcast and very windy, There was nary a car in the parking lot when we headed home at 10AM. I was shocked to learn that 3500 guests braved those winds to buy Lift Tickets! Last night on the 10 O'Clock News, they did a story on the Ski Resorts Heavy Business Levels...while citing the Soft Economy, and High Gas Prices...several Resort Marketing People gushed about the good numbers they were seeing...My Boss said we probably won't make 40,000 Skier Visits for December, but close enough for another New Grooming Machine this year! Woo-Hoo!

This looks like it's going to be a Bang-Up Season for my Groomers...Two New Machines! Now that we're an All-BR350 Fleet, we get to re-prioritize Everything! I have to learn a new paradigm...I have to reset my internal alarm system, so I can turn on my rethink response in time to salvage the best result from the worst circumstances. This could be a part of the uneasiness I felt yesterday morning...I'm good at my job, but I don't know how I know when to make adjustments, and because I don't know consciously how I know, I can't teach my methods...unsettling? You bet!

It's a "Seat Of The Pants" world I inhabit...more Art than Science really, but Science enough to keep everything on the Up and Up. I'll just keep on "keepin' on"...perhaps I'll finally be able to quantify what I do, though I'm not holding my breath...somehow I understand that it will still be The Magic...It's what I do, and it's what I no attention to that man behind the curtain...

Thursday, December 31, 2009

I Don't Know Why...

I had a good night at work despite having to park my favorite cat and finish my shift in another one. We got the job done, I even spent most of an hour re-contouring a spot on the Mountain that hasn't gotten the treatment for almost ten years! Change is afoot on My Mountain, and that's a good thing, but still it can be uncomfortable.

Now that the Fleet is All-BR350's, we save on average one shift-worth of time every night (except on Heavy Storm Nights) This is allowing us to re-order our priorities, to "leap back to the Future" in that many of the little details that we used to do, but dismissed in our rush for better production, can now be resurrected, and put back on our plates. This is great news, because I miss doing all the little things that made the mountain special.

These little projects are like cosmetic surgery...subtle-style. We don't remake the Mountain per se, but just make small changes that make the mountain flow better, look better, and feel better to our guests. We're not trying to turn the Wallflower into a Va-Va-Voom Pinup Girl, but we're just trying to make the Mountain more like your favorite comfy T-shirt or favorite old Levis...we're gettin' to fluff the goose down pillows before we place a handfull of mints on them now.

So why did I have this feeling of foreboding when I finished up this morning? I don't know why...maybe it's one of those Quiet/Too Quiet deals from Classic Cinema...I got a full shift in, as did my crew...we even re-rolled some Home Runs that accumulated 4-6 inches after we groomed them the first time around. Maybe it was the 80+ MPH wind gusts over the Ridgetops this morning, or maybe the road closure early last night when an accident blocked the Old Highway that I drive to work on... I can't say because I don't have my finger on it yet...

Don't misunderstand is good, work is nearly effortless and wholly engaging, but there's a little something that piques my attention...vague, elusive, unfelt and unknown at this time...perhaps it's nothing...if it is something, I'll know soon enough.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Up All Night Off

So here I am staying up all night on my One-Day Weekend. I've been fiddling with my computer stuff, trying to get my DSL Modem to play nice with my Wireless Router...alas, no amount of online self-help wizards, FAQ pages, downloaded .pdf Manuals and trying it again could tame the beast. I paid the freight for $29.99 with my ISP and a nice fellow in Upstate New York helped walk me through the arcane steps the manufacturer of the router, the modem, and the ISP keep hidden from me, the "valued end user".

So, now everything works...unless I plug in my laser printer...this seems to overrule every other USB port, and of course I'm on a USB Wireless Adapter...I "look forward to" setting up a home network so I can connect the laser printer to the LAN instead of the USB way...I'll be reading the printer manual 'till sunrise I suspect.

To be a comfortable Graveyard Guy, you need to stay up on your nights off. I'll roast a turkey while I'm at it! Turkey sandwiches this I love turkey sandwiches!

06:30 Update
The DaveCave smells of roasting turkey now, and the laser printer talks to my new network. Simple really, just run every Windows Wizard you no avail...go to filing cabinet...find and read laser printer Starter Guide and follow the directions! Simple! Reinstall the drivers, restart the laptop, and voilà, I'm in the 21st Century! Look Ma, no wires!

Can I say that it gripes the Hell out of me that the info isn't in the Basic Operation Guide (the 100+ page manual)? It directs you to the eManual on the CD, which doesn't tell you how to add your new laser printer to your network either...OK it works, and I was staying up all night anyway...

Now I need a wireless print server use my Photo Printer without wires, but at least the laser machine isn't hogging all my laptop's resources now!

I'm so thankful that grooming a ski hill isn't so maddeningly technical! If you think about it though, Hi Tech is needlessly frustrating because the Tech Companies don't write the manuals for civilians...guys like me who don't speak Geek! It's like they try to make it all arcane instead of simple to understand!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The More

...things change, the more they stay the same, goes the old saw. BajaBabe emailed me a critique of my Christmas Blog asking if I was short on sleep because she detected a "whining undercurrent" in my screed.

Did you read the 23rd's Blog I countered? The one about my glorious fleet all broken down before I even got to work?

This has been my beloved world for most of Three Decades! I've seen the industry grow and evolve, everything about Ski Slope Grooming has changed, but one thing remains the same...the Achilles Heel of my Perfect World, the Bane of my Snowcat Existence! 2-Way Radios hate me!

It's the same thing every season. I get into my trusty old steed, or every three years, my brand new machine, and I key the mic to brag on air, and ...nothing...

Grooming is a Team Sport, I'm the Player/Coach, and my job is to talk my crew through the shift to insure maximum productivity and safety! That's Job Description in a nutshell.

So why is it that I have the radio that won't Transmit every single year? The Gods don't favor me? Bad karma from a previous life? All of the above and the petty stupidity of People in General? Yes and Yes in Spades!

This year's new Bison has a sweet, brand new Kenwood 2-Way GMRS Radio, the wire leads out of the back to the Antenna, the antenna is mounted atop the shiny new bright yellow cab, but the Radio Tech failed Antenna Installation 101, so the thing can't 2-way itself out of a paper bag in a pouring rain!

These beautiful yellow fiberglass cabs come stock with a molded-in Ground Plane (or Counter-Poise) to mount the 2-Way's Antenna on. Electronically, a transmitting Antenna needs the help of the Ground Plane to get the signal out. This Radio Tech missed the spot, so the radio is useless farther than you can shout.

Last year's new Bison had a perfectly good Motorola 2-Way and a decent antenna...but no cable connecting the radio to the antenna...Arrrggghhh! How does a Radio Tech miss that? Enquiring Minds want to know...

I could go on, and on, and nauseum, but this record has been stuck for almost 30 Years! I can't belabor the point one more can't speak for itself unless I'm parked right next to your cat!

That's no Undercurrent, Bajababe...that's what's known as a Tsunami! I don't surf, but I can imagine just what a ride this series of failure waves would make! The Big Screen Epic Story of My Career!

Hello? Testing 1, 2...