Saturday, January 9, 2010

Rain On My Parade

I got the awful sinking feeling as soon as I recovered from a near spinout on my way up the hill to work last night. I was a warmish night, and a fine mist was "falling" on the unseen black ice. It was still rain at the base of the Mountain too, and all the Swing Shift Guys had long faces. I asked and they replied that it had been raining since sundown...not good.

Rain on a ski hill is just plain depressing. The rain gets into the snow, and fills all the space that normally is air. Air acts like a lubricant in the pack, and it's the reason that grooming works. The groomer's blade and tracks tear up the snowpack, and the tiller processes it before laying it out as corduroy. When rain displaces the air in the pack, there's no lubrication at fact water acts just like glue. Without lubrication, the processed snow doesn't flow, so making smooth slopes becomes very difficult and frustrating. It's nearly impossible to keep a roll of snow in the blade on nights like this, and special measures are taken to get the best results in difficult conditions.

So, on nights lake this, I run the longest circuits possible instead of breaking things into small fast pieces. My aim is to minimize the number of turn ruts I make, because fixing them seamlessly is really difficult with a blade-full of goo. Things seem to take much longer, so you become sort of a sightseer.

Fortunately, once we made it through shift change, the mist abated, and I didn't once use my wipers!

Aided by all the brute horsepower of our BR350's we knocked out the Work Orders and started adding extra trails to fill the evening. We ended up getting plenty of trails groomed, and still got off the Mountain an hour early. Firm but fast conditions made CD's skip, so thank Heaven for Apple's iPod!

Just before dawn, the first wisps of fog blew up from the lake, so grinding out the Lower Mountain was by about flat light! With the sun starting to shine, the whiteout was nearly total.

Back at the DaveCave, I looked at the Reno AFD. There's a chance for more nights like last night, Thursday and real measurable precip...just the nuisance kind...I'm gonna need my sleep to keep my Optimism Generator running at Full Tilt!

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