Sunday, February 7, 2010

I've Still Got It

No, not the flu!

Last night I enjoyed the trifecta. Finally a whole shift in my favorite BR350!
New Seat-check...
New Heater Blower-check...
Stereo Antenna Works-check!

I forgot my iPod, and the pack was hard enough that CD's would skip every time you'd get your groove on, so an evening of jazz on the local NPR station was just the ticket.

The latest wave of snow gave forecasters fits and found it's way into the High Sierra somewhere to the South of my Mountain. Swing Shift did yeoman's work, given the number of "Special Projects" that were front-loaded into the Work Orders. Even with all the Non-Grooming stuff on their list, they got plenty of grooming done due to the Hero Snow, and everyone was smiling and laughing at Shift Change.

I spent a half an hour doing my own "Special Project" before getting back on my latest favorite trail project.

Yesterday's snow was just deep enough that this trail gave up a long gone thrill...Freefall! This is the trail right under a chairlift, with lift towers, a dearth of trees, and a building complicating winch grooming. We've rarely groomed this trail over the last three seasons due to the low snow conditions, because there's a gnarly rock outcropping just downhill from the lift tower...right where you lose traction in soft snow!

Tuesday night, I groomed right up this little steep...with a roll of snow in my blade and running Down Pressure...right up the three Skier's Right Passes where the freefall starts!

Back in the days before Winch Technology finally matured, we free groomed everything, and on snow nights and a day or two after, groomers would be sliding down trails all night! Not the best results, but Boy! What fun we had! Even at HyperSpace speeds, there are skills that help the operators make good corduroy with the smallest berms left behind.

Today with almost half of our shifts running winch cats, these thrills are almost verboten. On my little favorite trail of the week, there's three passes that have a little spot- two machine lengths long that offer this experience today. You get a slide of 6-8 machine lengths before the compression at the bottom of the steep slows you down to traction speed again.

How does an experienced groomer pull off a slide without making things worse? It's all a matter of timing.

As you groom your way down to the steep spot where you expect to loose it and slide the cat, you dial back your speed to full slow ahead. You're clicking the sticks in and out of neutral detent, and tapping in extra Up Pressure to catch your spillage. The trick is to slide the sticks full forward just as the slide begins...while simultaneously losing the Up Pressure. As you rocket down the trail, the newly weighted tiller compacts the snow enough to keep the spillage from making too much berm. While you're at it, you need to keep the tractor on the pass, and inline with the adjacent passes! When you get back to controlled flight, you tap the Up Pressure back in, and go about your business.

Done right, this is one of the most satisfying things groomers do. A little off on the timing, and you'll have to let it set up for an hour or two, and come back and do it all over again. The second time around, you're usually in deeper when the slide starts, so you aren't carrying as much snow in the tiller box, so chances are better that you'll win.

The A-Team is in on swing tonight, so I'm looking forward to another shot at those three magic passes!

It's been too long! Last night I didn't nail it until my third pass...then perfection!

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