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!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Wither El Niño?

It's my Monday...err, really Sunday Night. I stayed up all night so as to keep my body's internal clock aligned with my schedule...but I did screw up by falling asleep about 11AM this morning, so getting enough sleep before my extended shift tomorrow is gonna be nearly impossible. After my shift tomorrow, Julie and I are enrolled in yet another Annual "Employee Orientation" from 0900 through Noon...that's gonna hurt, since I'm still awake at 6PM!

I spent my weekend catching up with the mountain of chores that pile up innocuously when I'm at the Ancestral Digs and only visit the Dave Cave every month or so...I spent most of Monday going through a Summer's-Worth of Mail...reading, filing, and responding to the important stuff, and shredding everything that might be trouble in an Identity Theft way! I can see a couple more square yards of my carpet now!

It's nice outside today...too nice, I surfed over to NOAA's Climate Prediction Page to look at their 90 Day Climate Prediction. Will these folks ever make a concrete prediction? I dunno... What I garnered from reading their latest is this: No Rest For The Wicked!! I still find it annoying when they make a Non-Prediction Prediction! We could be in for an extended Fair Weather Period...not what we want going forward exactly...our guests want a few inches of new snow every few days to keep the slopes sweet, and their interest on the front burner.

So, what am I to do about my pending sleep deprived shift/orientation marathon? I put a DVD in the player so I'm watching "National Treasure"...It's sure to put me to sleep before the Treasure is revealed!

I'm worked! I was back asleep even before the heist at the National Archives was over! I'm not in for nearly as much bother tomorrow as I feared!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Get On The Bandwagon

In Friday's edition of the local paper, the page two story chronicles the creation of an Over the Snow Music Stage built by Alpine Meadows' Vehicle Maintenance Crew on a BR275 Snowcat. The wrenches removed the Stinger and the Tiller, and replaced them with a Fold-out 250 sq.ft. Stage, added some amplifiers and loudspeakers, and voilà! Rolling Rock 'n Roll Show!

The Sierra Sun has a nice Slide Show of the Bandwagon's Construction and Debut Show.

Now I've driven some amazing Shop-Built Grooming Creations over the years, but not one of them was dedicated to pure fun for fun's sake like the Party Cat!

I think it's totally appropriate that Alpine featured a Reggae Band to kick off the thing...I've always been fascinated by how well the tropical Reggae Music compliments skiing in it's alpine locale...the bubbling rhythms of reggae just plain fits skiing's innate exuberance!

Song Tip: Put Peter Tosh's song "Stepping Razor" on your iPod for your next day on the slopes and hear how well reggae illuminates a run down the mountain!

"Stepping Razor" is from Tosh's 1977 Album "Equal Rights" and is his best Studio Album, since he left Bob Marley's Wailers. It's available Remastered/Reissued now too. "Get Up, Stand Up" is nicely covered, and "Downpressor Man" is a stand out too.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Old Home Week

My favorite protege made her way "Home For The Holidays" this week. We share the love of the same tractor, and she's as gentle with the cat as I am. Long time readers will remember that I wrote about Julie here.

I always knew Julie would go on to greener pastures, but enjoying her service while it lasted was great. She reveled out loud after her first shift back at the sticks, and she'll be around for another week...good on her! I'm so grateful! For this time of year, My Mountain has been double blessed with ample squeaky snow, and eager customers bent on enjoying the first good Christmas Holiday period in at least six years! We've really had a good run, and I believe that we'll win our New Snowcat Sweepstakes!

There's nothing...I mean Not One Thing out in the Pacific to bring more snow to my mountain for the forecast-able future. Another week of nice clear weather will be a good chance for our guests to play hooky from work and come up to enjoy a Bluebird Day on the slopes.

Here at the DaveCave, I've got a real weekend...two contiguous days off, which I'm spending cleaning my garage, so I can actually park my pickup in there. Downstairs in the DaveCave proper, I'm weeding through a whole summer's worth of mail, and filing. I want to get the DaveCave cleaned up enough that a Roomba Vacuum Robot can take over my most onerous housekeeping I hate to vacuum! I think I can program the Roomba to vacuum while I'm at work! This means I won't have to wear earplugs to manually do the vacuuming anymore! All I need to do is deal with the myriad piles of stuff that burgeons everywhere whenever I'm on the road all summer!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Nightly Remodeling

I arrived to work last night after a totally harrowing drive up the hill...Black Ice everywhere, because it had been raining since we finished grooming New Years Morning.

The Dread set in immediately...there's no way we can make the whole mountain good if the forecast pans out. Off piste the conditions would be diabolical...breakable crust over goo...not a pretty picture.

Swing shift were upbeat surprisingly, saying the top half of the Mountain was fine, but the lower mountain was just long as you didn't try to do anything! They meant don't touch the snow with your blade...or else!

They didn't lie...I went to the bottom of the mountain to work my way uphill. The "flats" always get hard first because they're at the bottom of the mountain...where all the coldest air settles first. The Flats also suffer the greatest Skier Compaction, so the flats are always hardcore city.

I extended my circuits so I made the fewest possible turn ruts to repair. I edited the list to preclude leading our guests into poor off-piste areas. As bad as the conditions were, all was not miserable. My stereo played CD's without skipping even at full stick.

Higher was definitely better, but time allowed me to re-roll all the flats which then turned into butter! Things were lookin' be sure! I even had a little time to play with my iPod...our Mountain's WiFi Networks are say the least! I had a solid connection at mid-Mountain! How cool is that!

I was fretting that someone might have to go home early because things were gong so swimmingly, but bless their hearts, the Snow Removal Crew made enough plow work for us, then we all got our full shifts in! I finished my shift right along our main entry road...our guests were blasting in at near 45MPH! They were pumped to ski and snowboard. We're having a great Christmas Holiday Period! The abundance of fresh snow, has people coming in droves...God bless 'em!

One more night and I get two nights off...that's going to be awesome. I need a couple of days just to do errands and clean the garage.

Did I mention last night's Full Blue Moon? Stunning peaking through the clouds and fog!