Saturday, April 3, 2010


Aside from some SnowCat issues, last night rocked! We were blessed with cold temps to go with the new fluff, wind wasn't problem, and Swing Shift rocked the reasonable Work Orders.

Our old BR275 had a short circuit that disabled the stinger and tiller, so we ended up down one shift. Ol' Hero Snow greased our grooves however, so we did two extras beyond the List. I envied our guests when I saw them streaming into the parking lot as I made my way home...great winter April!

April Fools Day came and went without any malicious hijinx, but the date is still notable for California. The DWR, Department of Water Resources makes another Sierra Snow Survey to gather data on California's water storage. The Sierra Snowpack holds more water than all of California's reservoirs combined. Early word is that our Snowpack is 106% of normal.

Here's where I toot my own horn! Longtime readers will recall I predicted an Above Average Winter way back on August 19th, 2009:

"I've never seen Four dry winters in a row, and I've been on this Mountain...yada, yada. They don't say "Four's a charm" for a reason...If this one's "Dry", I think we're looking at a Trend."

So far, so good! It's snowing lightly, and it's supposed to end overnight. It's a cold storm, Chain Controls are way downhill at Drum (One mile east of Baxter) and run over the Summit to Truckee. The Reno NWS said 4-8 inches above 7000ft in their afternoon AFD. Snow level is below 5000ft. After midnight, it's supposed to be over, with much colder, drier air moving in to crash the!

There's still plenty of Moon up on Graveyard, so tonight should be another cake night. Another Cold Front comes in Sunday night to bury any undiscovered Easter Eggs.

Egg Salad and Cake, my idea of a Classic Easter Brunch!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Hit Parade

Yes, the hits just keep on coming! We enjoyed another great night on the Mountain last night. The storm never made it east enough to hit us, so we were favored with some catch-up time.

I began my night by telling Jeweler that I was so sorry that he felt so stressed the other night. He's a great prospect, now in his second year...I told him it took me most of twenty years to finally make peace with the "Big Picture" vis a vis berms on powder nights. Part of the big picture is learning when to chill...I realized that I should let on when chillin' is in guys are good enough now, that I forget how much they still have to learn...I'll work on it.

We had one problem in the morning...all the free cats were already off the Mountain when the Sherpa winchcat threw it's cable off the drum and wrapped the drum motor. Jeweler and I staged at the top of the trail while the head mechanic, our Boss, and the winch pilot slowly walked the cat up the hill, looping the cable over the blade by hand, so they could take it back to the shop for repairs. Once they left, Jeweler and I made some clean-up passes so we could get the Mountain opened on time.

I crept down the first pass without drama, Jeweler's pass was more wicked...just as steep, but with twice the side-hill...he flew off the pass and tobogganed four or so passes into the un-groomed! I told him he could head for the barn, and I'd make a clean-up pass for him. I slid too, though I kept it on the pass and moved the berm a pass towards the was a good ride, and good enough to open the trail...once Patrol did a little berm stomping!

Back at the fuel dock, I took the heat off Jeweler, making another "Teachable Moment" of the morning's events. He said he couldn't keep his slide straight because he had his track speed dialed way down. "Keep that track speed all the way up", I told him, "and lose your up pressure when you start into your slide"..."that'll help cover your track marks" I told him there wasn't much you could do with all that side hill, "You steering track was very un-weighted, so the slide was a fait accompli... With all the steeps getting the Winchcat Treatment these days, sliding SnowCats is becoming a Lost Art.

Controlling slides used to be a major part of Grooming 101, but the industry's move into WinchWorld has all but eliminated the sport. I'll give a little talk about sliding tonight at Shift Change, hopefully we won't be in a position to do anymore SnowCat Sliding this season...but you just never know.

Looking at the latest AFD from the Reno NWS Office, it looks like we won't be getting pounded this week after all. The Boss was all atwitter because the Forecast Service we use was pumping up the forecast way out of proportion..."Use the Reno AFD, Boss...they're realists over there!" I told him.

Even without another big storm period, the next week will be good and cold...with just over three weeks left in the season, the outlook is great!

Come on up...the sliding is awesome!

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Winter returned alright! While I was blowing my driveway before I left for work, it didn't snow a bit. When I pulled into the parking lot at work, there was about five inches on the ground. When I pulled out of the lot this morning, there was at least fifteen inches!

Pretty nice snow, and plenty of it...recipe for a tasty night's work. I was in no mood for hassles, so I ran the Pack. I broke trail and the rookies followed along behind. The snow was as deep as two feet almost everywhere because the Mountain only opened one lift Tuesday. The winds ranged from near 50MPH at the Base to 100+ MPH up top. Patrol's anemometer recorded a 130MPH gust in the afternoon!

Running the Pack was just the became a "Teachable Moment" in today's vernacular. As we rolled hither and yon, I narrated over the 2-way, coached the guys to make just a little more with each pass, and explained my deep, dry snow, berm position.

I've turned these guys into Perfectionists. When it's as deep and dry as last night, they've got to unlearn a few things in order to increase production. I told them: "Tonight, I'll tolerate 6X6 Berms" I explained that six inch high, six inch wide berms wouldn't be dangerous, wouldn't set up, and would let us get the Work Orders done. A lot of the list got groomed three times!

With the Mountain closed, Swing Shift came in early and did a lot of digging before grooming a bunch of trails. I ran the Pack until 0400, when I launched them to their own devices, so I could start detailing the ramps, roads and mazes, and dig out the lift terminals again. Visibility had been improving all night, so I didn't worry that the guys would get lost and make more work for us. With so much snow on hand, adjustments had to be made to our usual routine. Working alone now I did a few trails "backwards" to control the berms.

As the night wore on, the snow fell and got ever dryer, so dry that it could barely find the ground. Snow levels dropped as low as 2000ft. Everything flowed nicely, our only mechanical was a windshield wiper failure on my old favorite tractor...passenger side, so the operator was able to run with it fine. I got a nice "power nap" for Lunch Break, and when the Sun rose, I was well into the Snow Day routine.

Back at the shop by 0900, Jeweler, one of the guys worried that we didn't get enough done. I laughed and said we did fine...we did tons considering the two feet of fluff we had to work with.

Warming up the pickup, I thought about Jeweler worrying all morning...I'd better dole out some kudos tonight, and council a little more about the Big Picture! For me, last night wasn't ecstatic, but it was can get jaded in a hurry when Champagne Powder rules the roost in Springtime...I'd better not let it go to my head.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Seems Like Old Times

0500 Tuesday
I'm up and at 'em after my "afternoon nap" After a harrowing drive up the Truckee River Canyon that featured gusts to 60+ MPH, I napped from 4PM 'till 11PM! Cool, bedtime observed...even on a Springtime Day Off!

I'm not the only one burning the Midnight Oil! My very own SisterSweetly emailed twice after 2AM. She's up on the North Coast and lives in a travel trailer. She wrote of driving rain, hail, blustery winds, and forecast high swells. I replied, noting the howling winds outside the DaveCave, the driving rain to 8200ft, and the glee NorCal Surfers are enjoying as yet another big Winter Swell visits. I told of my wild ride home from a Reno re-provisioning trip...a gust was so strong that it blew the side mirror on my Chevy Pickup back against the window! (I did stay in my own lane!)

I've been looking outside every time I get up, and it's still rain at the DaveCave (el.5960) I've been looking at the NWS Remote Data page, and the wind speeds over the whole basin have been impressive...gusts to 90MPH are common on most mountain top sensors. My Mountain's webcam is at the base, 1000ft below the top of the mountain, and it showed only rain when I last looked around 0330. Chain controls finally went up at 0430, the barest minimum...Kingvale to DLI (Donner Lake Interchange)

The Sacramento Local News opened it's 0430 broadcast with a pitiful reporter doing the Live "Stand Up" from Blue Canyon...looking for all the World like the frigid version of the Hurricane Live Remotes of Summer and Fall. Impressive looking radar, and the weathermen promise the snow levels will fall to 3500ft today.

Sacramento's CBS affiliate is showing video from Boreal's Night Skiing, featuring hail with 100MPH gusts! Ouch! A far cry from the costumed snowboarders mugging for the camera back on Halloween!

I'm in for an interesting morning...baking cookies, making a loaf of Rye Bread, making cole slaw and prepping some chicken breasts...all the while enjoying the play-by-play of the new storm. I may even turn on my Police Scanner...when it finally turns to snow in Truckee!

0543 Update
The rain has stopped at Blue Canyon as well as in the Big Valley...that's our Midday Break, when I venture down to the Post Office...there's a book from Amazon waiting for me. I bought the tome written by the guy who's Homemade Corned Beef Recipe I used for this year's St Patrick's Day Reuben Sandwich. I hope to gain some further insight on timing the brine.

Looking at the latest radar, it's not going to be a very long break, but the forecast says the next break isn't until Thursday. I love all the ways to monitor the weather in real time today!

Two lanes of Westbound I-80 are now blocked by a tipped-over semi trailer up by DLI, and snow is accumulating on the front porch of the DaveCave! The latest update of Reno's AFD says things will stay very interesting through Thursday!

These are the Good Old days!

Sunday, March 28, 2010


I got the news Tuesday that my newest friend passed away last week.

David was a very interesting guy. An American, he was born in Rhodesia to American Missionary Parents. Returning to the States, he got his college degree and met and married his sweetheart Janie.

David and Janie returned to Africa and did their missionary work until they began their family, and returned to the states to raise said family and teach in Public Schools.

I met David and Janie at my Mom's monthly church luncheons a year or two back. Dave fascinated me. He was a real Weather Geek just like me. Only all of his hands-on experience was from Central Africa. We'd get to gabbing over the monthly luncheon, and the time flew by. Gardening enchanted us both, and skiing. We held similar political philosophies as well. We're Conservatives who believe in America's Founding Principals. It's funny...I marched in the streets in the 60's, but some would brand me a Redneck Hippie today...well, whatever.

David who was nearly Eighty years young fell and broke his hip last month. We missed him at the Luncheon. I called the tiny redheaded firecracker Jackie, who organizes and caters the Church Luncheons (and does all the planning and decorating, publicity...etc) to get Dave and Janie's snail mail address so I could chide David into limping in to next month's soiree. She broke the sad news to me...David caught pneumonia in the hospital and never rallied. Another death by contagious hospital...

While I was on the phone with Jackie, I watched President Obama sign his Healthcare Takeover Bill on TV (with the sound off) Later I caught the replay where Obama droned on about the 100 years the Progressives have tried to "give all Americans Universal Healthcare"

In my estimation, it took the Progressives 100 years before the stars aligned enough to put this sham past the American People, despite the fact that almost 70% didn't want what Obama and the rest of them were peddling!

Should this travesty clear the Constitutional challenges and become law, the Federal Government will exercise total control over one half of America's economic engine! There's been a lot of noise coming from the Tea Party side calling this Socialism. I beg to differ, it's Fascism...textbook Fascism. Ask Mussolini, look it up. Top-Down central control of the markets has never worked throughout history...never...not once.

The troubles with America's Healthcare Sector are NOT a result of under-regulation. The burgeoning of Healthcare costs can be traced linearly to Government meddling in the Medical Markets...going back to the Post-War wage controls imposed by the Truman administration.

Hoping to stave off a wave of wage inflation when our returning armed forces rejoined the workforce, wage controls were instituted, so the employers instead offered medical benefits instead of higher wages. Today, 85% of Workers get their Health Insurance from their employers. Third Party Payers take the consumer out of the equation, stifling efficiency of the market.

I remember our Family Doctor made lots of House Calls when I was little. Dr Lewis would come look at us kids, reassure Mom, and she would write a check to Dr Lewis for around $20! Today that would come to around $80...House Calls ended when Medicare came into being as part of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. That was the second big disturbance in the healthcare market.

Next up? Senator Kennedy's creation...HMO's...more upsetting of the market. Today, even before the President signed, a full 50 cents of every healthcare dollar spent in America is spent by Government!

So, here we are. the final nail in the Medicine Market's coffin. It's a sad day...stay tuned!