Saturday, April 17, 2010

That's Better

Last night wasn't one for the Ages, but it was a pleasant surprise.

Things looked a little overwhelming on first glance at the Work Orders. Signs on the walk up from the parking lot to the Shop weren't encouraging...then a huge list, given the conditions. On the bright side, the fleet was hale and hardy, and Swing Shift was staying until 0200.

With the boys staying on the hill, I was reunited with my favorite BR350. She was parked on the side of the hill, away from the power pole that feeds the block and tank heaters of the cats. Plugging in these new Electronically Controlled Diesel Engines is really important...the heaters keep the coolant and hydraulic fluid warm and supple. The starter turns a warmed engine over easier, and the warmed oil moves a little easier as well. All this shortens the warm-up time...operating temps are reached in half the time, and the Cab Heaters blow warm air from the onset.

I had the guys go to my Bare Bones Plan, knowing we'd be losing an hour or so to the 0200 Shift Change that now included Cat Swaps. The Terrain Park Crew has been downsized too, so we had some trails to maintain for them added to our list. We even had to retrieve one cat from the far side of the Mountain before we could start grinding out some corduroy!

Fortunately, the piste was grooming out better than the perceived conditions would suggest. My guys realized before I let them know, that they could flesh-out their lists too. We weren't exactly flying Hero-Style, but the acres did add up, the fleet soldiered along without a hiccup, and the Sun rose on the Home Stretch with us right on schedule.

I was the last cat off the Mountain, and I pulled up to the Fuel Dock right at 0830. It felt good to be back in the old Cat...she fits me like a glove, and we're still simpatico.

Tonight should be an instant replay of last night...or better. The Max Temp was down 10F over the night before, but the humidity is up near fog levels, so we'll just have to see how things play out.

A look at the Reno Forecast show the rest of my week will be a carbon copy of tonight. My next Monday will feature snow...we may end the season with a week of Hero Snow!

Here's hoping!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Still In Trouble

I'm awake's only 6PM...I've banked five hours of sleep...I'm gonna be needing a couple more hours before I head off for work tonight.

The burnout from last night's debacle notwithstanding, I'll be earning it again tonight...I logged onto the Reno AFD when I woke up, and looked at the remote sensors and saw the Hero Snow making a hasty retreat. Until the next system arrives next week, we'll be doing Spring-Like temperatures. Today's High Temp topped out at 20F above freezing, and 16F higher that yesterday's High. Highest of the last seven days, I'm surprised I haven't heard the Cheeseburger Birds calling yet.

Still, the lingering winter-style show kept the interest of our guests...they've been coming up in droves! We've been doing Land Office Business this month...most seasons, my Mountain is more like my Ghost Town by mid-April. Thanks to El Niño, this surprise bonus has everyone smiling big wide grins.

This season hasn't turned out to be a Drought Buster, but it's moved us in the right direction. So far, so good.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

This Is Trouble

Wednesday Night 8:28PM

I'm back up the hill, layin' in bed, in the DaveCave...eyes are wide open...still...

Damn, I did everything right this weekend...especially last night! I fought to keep the peepers open...I made it 'till 3AM, and dutifully answered the alarm clock at 0558! Out of the sack at 0800, I filed the taxes, printed Wednesday's blog for my Mom, and the blog where I mentioned my friend Dave's passing. Throw in a trip to the Post Office, and a Doctor visit, before driving across the Big Valley and up the hill, I was sure I had the right recipe for a solid 4-5 hour snooze...FAIL!

The trip was largely uneventful, the scenery the best of the season to date, and I even ran into a nice snow squall crossing the Summit! My return trip was drama-free compared to my downhill journey!

That's all folks! I gotta try to get a few winks before midnight! Drama? I've got your drama right heeeer!

I'll finish up in the AM...g'night!

Thursday 9:54AM

A few winks wasn't enough! I suffered for my damn art all night!

It could have been way worse though...the snow was excellent! Still dry and squeaky...just like I like it.

Skiers and riders like it too...we've been averaging around a thousand guests daily this week! Thanks El Niño for a lingering shot of Winter Snow !

Good Night!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Restin' Up From the Weekend!

I've enjoyed a great weekend at the Ancestral Digs. Spring is in full force down here in the Inland Valley! The last time I was down here was only a month ago, but the difference is striking!

Back in March, the East Bay Hills were kelly green from the new shoots of grass bursting forth. This month, the hills are more emerald green, all the fruit trees are a riot of blossoms, everything has new growth, and the colors are almost electric! The contrast with my snowy monochrome world is startling! Out front, my Dad's Sun Azaleas are putting on another wild display of rich pink flowers. All the trees show new growth at the tips of every branch and bough, Mother Nature's signal of life going forward for another year.

Despite all these signs to the contrary, Old Man Winter is hanging on. SturgeUrge and I had planned to fish out of The Golden Gate for King Salmon on Monday, but the latest Winter Storm had the Pacific so churned up that we dared not venture out.

My original plan called for a decent nap after I got off work Sunday, then the drive down the hill with the rest of the weekend traffic...however, after a scan of the Buoy Data and Marine Forecast, we cancelled our trip, and I was given the opportunity to play my travel plans by ear. A second nap energized me and I was up at 0300 Monday, watching the storm, the road conditions, and the clock.

Everything came together after lunch, and I pulled out of town at 1PM. Chain Controls were lifted during the noon hour, and the super-slab was ice and snow free, even though it was still showery.

As I drove west and lower in elevation, I ran into some energetic cells that featured heavy snowfall and gusty wind...I found traffic grinding to a halt along the top of the Nyack Summit. Sitting for five minutes in near white-out conditions was unsettling, but the spinout was cleared and we were on our way again.

With visibility compromised the best we dared was 40 mph all the way down to Dutch Flat where torrents of rain and the heavy spray thrown up from the road kept a lid on everyone's speed. Seriously heavy rain poured down all the way through Sacramento, and on to Davis, where some really good thunderstorms were goin' off. At one point, there was so much lightning, that I was forced to change stations on the AM Radio, as the crackling became a roar!

By the time I pulled off the Interstate for gas in Vacaville, I'd passed through the back end of the front, and the radio's Traffic Guy reported Chain Controls were back up on 80...not over the Summit, but from Baxter to Cisco Grove, well West and downhill! I smiled my goofy smile, knowing I'd threaded the needle once again...

No drama down at the Ancestral Digs, I escorted Mom to the Church Luncheon before doing some shopping and network maintenance. Mom reports the Family are all doing well, and I told her how well my season continues to unfold.

Today is Tax Day at the Ancestral Digs, then I head up the Hill for another week on the Mountain which will feature snow showers by week's end. I'll probably begin my week a little sleep-deprived, but that's the norm in's my body striving to get a little more solar energy into the system...same as every season...I've learned to live with it, it's transitional.

Tonight, the winter style snow will help me rest up from my weekend...then May is for resting up from my season...and the Indy 500!

Two more Saturday Nights behind the sticks of my Groomer, then I reset the Body Clock, and rejoin the masses in daylight. I'm ready, even though the lingering winter snow is so much fun!

Another Season in the books...good one!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Grinding One Out

Whew! That was one tough night! Warm temps vanquished the squeaky stuff, and the over the top Work Orders made our world impossible! The Race Department is finishing the season with a Big Bang! We've got races from one end to the other...all over the Mountain. Pro Jumps, Start Bumps, Winner's Circles, early chairs...the lists are endless!

Meanwhile, end of season staff cutbacks have clipped our wings even though we're attracting Mid-Season-Style Crowds! We've done better that 2000 skier visits all mid-week...bountiful snowfall coupled with California's near 20% Unemployment rate have filled our parking lots all week! Hero Snow is for skiers, not just Groomers!

Our front loaded Work Orders kept Swing Shift from doing all the details that they usually take care of...consequently, I nearly lost my hearing this morning with all the radio traffic advising me of all those details that needed my attention.

We did get it all done, and the whole crew was back at the fuel dock by 9AM. I found myself just a little annoyed when all was said and done...then I remembered that the end is just over two weeks away...salmon fishing, followed by Sierra Stream Trout Season, gardening at the Ancestral Digs...who could stay pissed off? Not me!

These are the times that try men's souls, goes the old saw...long, sunny afternoons, coupled with lurid, warm temps make it hard to obey the bedtime regime...and the nightly suffering is so easily forgotten given the wonderful the sleep-deprived nights become the diabolical norm...not a pretty picture even given the new Lunch Break Rules...wherein I get to catch a 30 minute paid nap when the old eyelids get heavy!

Longing for the squeaky Hero Snow while grinding along at a pace slower that a walk, it all becomes a penance...a strangely quasi-religious be endured...never enjoyed.

This is the part of the season that we earn it...grinding out the acres one 16ft wide pass at a a pace barely faster than a's gonna be a long night...

I'm buoyed by the forecast...another bit of winter weather is on tap for next week! So far, I can count on one hand the bullet-proof nights spent grinding around my Mountain this season...clearly, Mother Nature loves me!

Knock wood!