Saturday, April 24, 2010

99 Down and 2 To Go

I did some bonehead estimating and came up with 99 shifts so far this season...I'm sure it's accurate...give or take 10%! I am fully infected with Short Timer's Disease now.

I'm bidding Hero Snow adieu until next season. I woke up this afternoon and looked at the Remote Sensors...not good, unless you're thinking Golf, Gardening, Tennis, or Suntans.

Today's afternoon High was a full 20F higher than yesterday. Last night, Jeweler and I searched the Mountain from top to bottom looking for a patch of the Hero Stuff...none found, but you could deem it Hero-Like compared to the boilerplate we'll be dealing with tonight!

It's damn hard to keep your mind in the game when you get to this point in the season...two nights left, and post-season plans start taking over your thoughts!

I clicked on to Reno's AFD. Not to confirm the doom I face on my Mountain tonight, but to see if next week's "FishCamp" will get snowed on...damn, it looks likely at this point. SturgUrge and I were invited to Jerry Otto's Annual Fish Camp this year. These legendary Camp-Outs are Jerry's annual outdoor season kick-off. We fished Baja with Jerry a couple of times in the Spring over the years, and that's when we became aware of his Fish Camps.

This year Jerry is making camp in time for the Sierra Stream Trout Opener. We'll be pulling into Camp mid-week for (Hopefully) fun in the Sun and some stream trout fishing. It'll be good to catch up, I haven't had a face to face with Jerry in a couple of years.

The streams are likely to be running high next week...there be more time to chew the fat than anybody called for, but getting out with the Boys is always too much fun.

Tonight I'm downloading plenty of Podcasts to keep my mind's gonna be a Grinder tonight. We'll be earning spades.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Three to Go

I just doesn't get any better than this! Again last night, fresh snow was falling and the grooming was fast. Jeweler drove my old favorite BR350, while I was pushing sticks in the Bison. Snow turned to snow showers as the night wore on, and the Sun peeked through scattered clouds as we pulled off the Mountain.

Tonight should be another in this season's long string of good nights even though the mercury is hovering just above freezing at the base. I'll invest extra attention tonight because Springtime returns Friday with a vengeance. Weather Readers on all the Sacramento TV News Shows have been touting the return of 80 degree afternoons all week. Is it just me? I'm not excited for 80F temps in their world of asphalt and steel! I'm savoring this Winter to the last!

Tonight, Jeweler and I will take the field in the second half and run to daylight...full stick and full of glee. The forecast says:
The Ridge Gusts might be trouble, but they will keep the piste squeaky cold...extending the joy for a few extra hours. Good thing too, considering the end of my week (and season!):


It's been a good year, good enough that I'm already looking forward to next year! Looking past those afternoon highs in the 60's this week, to the Golden Promise of Storm Nights, fresh Champagne Powder and New Snowcats working Hero Snow.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Nothing to Complain About

Last night's winter storm didn't live up to the hype, but it did turn the Hero volume up! I had to throw the pickup into four wheel drive to get up the hill...our Snow Removal Crew had just plowed the road (read polished the road!) When I pulled into the parking lot there was barely two inches on the ground...stars were showing through the scattered cloud cover...and there was this weird frozen slush glazing the whole place.

My happy Swing Shift Leader was ebullient after his "awesome shift". He said it totally dumped around much that he had to pull up and have lunch until it blew over enough to see again! Gushing, he continued..."You guys don't have much left to do...extras I guess..."

The Boss was in, and he whined about Monday night's Shift From Hell, where it rained all night long...before it turned to snow at 8AM! This was the genesis of the weird slush glaze covering everything in sight.

Happily, Tuesday's snow freshened up the piste nicely, and there wasn't enough accumulation so the Snow Removal guys didn't make any extra work for us! All the ramps I maintain between the ski hill and the roads and parking lots didn't have a single bucketload of parking lot snow on them, so I didn't spend my first hour cleaning up after Snow Removal like most snow days. Instead, I just laid down the acres...full stick!

Our night flew by, by the time lunchtime came around, we were already fleshing out the Work Orders with plenty of extra trails. I took a power nap for lunch, and the snow was just starting up when I rolled away. This snow was what the TV WeatherDudes had been calling "Wrap-Around Moisture"...formerly known as: a "Back Door Storm" This thing didn't exactly measure up to the Storm measured two inches on the 24 Hour Stake!

I rerolled a couple of home runs on the Upper Mountain, before knocking out the Base Area stuff. For the night, we added seven or eight extras, and we wrapped it up (including a bunch of Snow Day Housekeeping stuff) by 0815 I was at the fuel dock by 8:30, and had all my paperwork and reports filed in time to punch out at 0900!

We were just happier than we had any right to be! Last week of the season...nine days 'till May...and we were out running full stick, on Hero Snow, all night, as fast as she'll go, all you want!...with no digging, and no plowing! No fuss, no muss...Man, this is Livin'!

The Reno AFD says tonight might be an Encore Performance, my Mountain's Webcam shows flurries and a low cloud deck. Chain Controls are up on Hwy 50, but haven't gone upon I-80 yet.

While writing this post, Reno updated their forecast...maybe 3-5 inches up top tonight...Westerly winds under 15mph.

I'm up for an encore...Hell yeah!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Damn, I'm Doomed...Again...

The hardest thing about being a Graveyard Groomer in Mid-April is turning off the body's internal clock so I can get a good day's sleep! Christ, I only took a three hour nap overnight, and here I am at nearly 4PM still wide awake!

Today's much hyped return to Wintertime is a big fat fizzle so far! Here at the DaveCave, I had to abandon my plans to shoot some new photos for this blog. I had planned to do some Logo photos on my front porch adorned with freshly fallen fact, I had to deploy my shovel when I fired up my Bar-B-Que to grill a NY Steak for Brunch! After brunch, the Sun came out and the dusting of fresh snow melted in the wink of an eye! So much for my logo photo shoot! I need snow!

So I surfed the Web to look at the latest satellite and radar data...the latest storm system isn't exactly setting my world on fire...the center of the low is barely moving onshore, consequently, most of the action is moving from South to North...and not making any appreciable progress easterly towards my Mountain.

Looking at Reno's AFD, it looks like the time frame has lingered enough that the storm period will last through Thursday afternoon...maybe things will stack up...keeping my fingers crossed here...damn, it better start stacking up soon, or my logo shoot will have to wait for next season!

Monday, April 19, 2010

I Love Weather

...but the weather doesn't love me!

My life as a Groomin' Human, Graveyard Variety could be seen as my journey to the Dark Side.

Not Luke Skywalker's Dark Side, but the Dark Side as in Night Life, Not the Nightclub Variety.

Three decades of Graveyard Shift atop the Sierra Crest in the dark of night give one ample opportunities to cultivate some Dark Sky interests. For me, it's astronomy and Manned Spaceflight. I came to the party already armed with my love for all things NASA, astronomy come organically...graveyard osmosis really. When you're up all night, with the Starry Heavens shining down, it's impossible not to wonder what all those points of light are, and where do all those Shooting Stars come from?

Several Meteor Showers recur annually as our blue marble orbits the Sun and passes through the debris streams left by comets that visited the Inner Solar System in antiquity. Many of these showers happen in winter months, and they can be spectacular...provided the skies are cloud free. Therein lies the rub...and why the weather hates me.

The Leonid Meteor Shower is the Super Bowl of meteor showers. Every November, Earth flies through the debris stream of Comet Temple-Tuttle. The Leonids can show up to 3000 meteorites per hour! The 1833 Leonids featured 100,000 meteorites per hour! That one spawned novels and popular songs, not to mention the scores of artworks of the day.

Now I hate to whine, but the November weather has fouled up every Leonid Shower I can remember over the past few decades. Storms or high clouds have obscured every decent shower except when there's a big Moon to obscure the action...Oh sure! Full Moon washouts are never obscured by clouds! I can't win.

This morning the weather over Florida put the kibosh on my nocturnal ambitions. A chance of rain over Cape Kennedy Space Center caused NASA to postpone by one orbit the reentry of STS-131. Space Shuttle Discovery was to be visible from the DaveCave as it burned it's way through the Earth's atmosphere on it's way to Florida's Space Coast. It was the last opportunity to view a Space Shuttle reenter at night. Only three more Space Shuttle Missions are scheduled before NASA retires the program.

Up for the occasion, I found the next orbit's Ground Track would have the Shuttle visible from Tacoma, WA during reentry. My friend KirkVallus is in Tacoma for a few days visiting with his sister from Boston. I thought about giving him a call...then thought better of it. What are the chances that there'd be clear skies over Tacoma with another Winter Storm headed our way for tonight? Not to mention how much I appreciate O-Dark:30 phone calls!

Now NASA has postponed the landing until Tuesday! There may be hope yet. I've seen the Space Shuttle reenter twice. Once in the Summer of 1996, and in 2003 when the doomed Columbia came over my Mountain before she broke up over Texas.

In a few hours, updated orbital data will make available new ground tracks and viewing times. NASA will announce which orbit they will de-orbit from and maybe, just maybe I'll get to see the show one more time.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sucker Punch

Another Spring night, another beating...

Well, it wasn't a physical beating...really.

My sunny optimism got the best of me last night. Swing Shift was well into Extra Trails when the Graveyard Shift punched in. Their Cockeyed Optimist was practically glowing when he related what they'd left for the three of us to do. I called the park groomers...they were jubilant over their progress, too...and no, they wouldn't need any help from the Free Groomers. Nice set-up I thought!

I saddled up in my old favorite BR350, and rumbled into the night, buoyed by the knowledge that I could be getting outta there early! I was greeted by fairly fast conditions, but I knew that wouldn't was getting, and I was working my way up the Mountain, and down the thermometer.

By 2AM even I could read the handwriting on the wall...I'd be getting a full shift in tonight. I set about grinding out my list. The AM side of my cat's stereo has been crippled all season by some antenna glitch, so my iPod provided the soundtrack for the night.

Entering the home stretch, the last third of my final circuit took as long as the first two-thirds...I must have been quite the sight to those who snowmobiled past on the way to their jobs. The Podcast of Friday's "Armstrong & Getty Show" had me bustin' a gut! They killed, and I was laughing out loud every minute or two!

The decent sunrise, coupled with a big dose of hilarity, made me forget all about the early-off tease. We weren't jubilant back at the fuel dock, but we were far from bummed.

Tonight's my Friday. My weekend will be chock-full of Motorsports and Baseball. Formula One in China, IndyCars at Long Beach, Giants vs Dodgers...Spring in all it's glory! My last weekend for the 09/10 Ski Season. Stream Trout opens next weekend, and Ocean Salmon will now be open 'till Labor Day.

To borrow from Steinbeck: "Once again the World was spinning in greased grooves"

According to the Reno NWS, my final Monday will be a Storm Night! Greased Grooves, indeed!