Saturday, December 11, 2010

Grumpy Me

Another wet night Thursday...just Jeweler and me squeegeeing the mountain...Where were those "eye problems" when I needed them? I wish I could have napped away a half an hour of last night's soggy Hell...

Warm drizzle for going on three days now...the pack is so saturated now that you can't run full stick unless your cat has the latest fenders to prevent slush from flying over your tiller onto the fresh-made corduroy.

You usually want to run as fast as you can when the snow is this wet, it's the only way to get decent results.

Mercifully, we got finished and off the hill early...I pulled up to the fuel dock and there were my boss and the Big Boss. I spent a couple of minutes gathering up my gear and packing my bag and lunchbox before I stepped out to greet them and fuel up.

The Big Boss spoke: "Truckee Dave, how are you?" "I'm kinda grumpy this morning" I replied..."I've had enough of this wet, warm weather!" "We all have" Big Boss replied...he wasn't in the mood for our usual banter either...Grumpy is contagious on soggy ski hills...

Jeweler and I were outta there before 0930...I went grocery shopping...dungeness crab on sale for $2.99/lb...breakfast of champions...when combined with some San Francisco Sourdough and some California bubbly!

When I woke up, half of the champagne was warmed to room temperature...I made cooking wine...d'oh!

I laid in bed for three hours knowing I wasn't going to get the two more hours of sleep I wanted...

I watched the weather report...another warm night ahead...silver lining? Shouldn't be any more rain...fingers crossed...

10PM Friday and the remote sensors show the temps still holding in the mid 30's...they've been hanging right in that warm neighborhood for three days now...

Unless the cloud cover miraculously vanishes overnight, I'll probably get to bank 30 minutes of those two hours I wanted after all...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Oh, What a Web We Weave...

When we try to fool Mother Nature... Wednesday night...the repercussions of screwing with my sleep cycle are still playing their hand...

I got home Wednesday morning around 11AM...took out the recycling and the garbage...I didn't see noon, and awoke at 5:45PM. Then I couldn't get back to sleep to catch the last three hours...

But wait, it gets even more cruel...the weatherdudes were having fits with the latest pulse of winter weather, and I drove up to work in a drizzle...not good...

So, I get out of my pickup and throw my Grundens over my shoulders just as a gust of wind turns me into an old overweight version of Marilyn Monroe over the subway grate in "The Seven Year Itch" My slicker went straight up, my watch cap blew off, and flew who knows where!

A fierce 30+MPH wind followed me up the 100 yard long shop road, totally soaking the back of my jeans. I couldn't hurry up the shop road, it was encrusted with a miasma of frozen tire tracks, liberally lubricated with spilt oils under a small lake of runoff...perfect slip and fall terrain...

Things didn't improve once I'd made it safely into the Groomer's Ready Room...Swing shift were there...all long faces and deflated egos...rain on a ski hill does that to the best of us...

It was a less than enjoyable on the hill...snowpack saturated...grinding around inside a cloud...blustery winds finding a way to blow the drizzle through my barely open window. I avoided most temptations to put my blade into the goo...we were making very long passes to minimize turn ruts that become "dragon holes" and lots of trouble to fill and forget.

The rain had edited our list a bit...time was on our side...unless the snow level lowered a thousand feet or so...before long, Highway Hypnosis began to set eyelids began getting heavy...

Jeweler and I were working on our lists, each on our own hill. Around 0330, I surrendered. I keyed the mic on my 2-way and called Jeweler: "Jeweler, can you give me a call-back in 30 minutes?" Jeweler replied: "Sure, I'm on my last pass over here, so I'll be coming your way, where are you going to be, so my lights won't wake you?" I set him up, and pointed my cat up a steep spot, reclined my throne as far as it would go, turned down the iPod and closed my eyes.

Jeweler called back in what seemed like an instant...the power nap worked eyes stayed open...we were way ahead of the clock now, so I took one pass all the way to the top of my mountain to see if it was rain all the way to the top...alas it wasn't snowing up top...

Jeweler and I finished up around the same time 0615...usually we're running flat-out 'till 0830-0900...

I called Jeweler: "Let's take some passes to the top of the Western Peak and have a look-see."

We packed-up and began to climb the western peak...there was a little new snow on swing shift's corduroy...not fluff mind you...more like primer on something in need of a paint job. We surprised a big sage grouse sitting on the snowpack at the top...first one I've seen on the snow...we rerolled the easiest way down and headed back to the lower mountain to groom the last trail of the day.

Damn if my eyelids didn't fail me again! I took a break...15min...OK now, we finished up the mountain and hit the outlying road crossings, parking lot ramps and cross country trails. We were back at the Ready Room by 0815 to file our Checkout Sheets and the Grooming Report.

Back in the parking lot, my watch cap was laying in a puddle 20 feet from my pickup...under a Jeep...

The first thing I teach my new rookies in Grooming 101 is: Part of the job is getting plenty of sleep...without enough sleep, you're disarming yourself of your most important tools...your Short Term Memory...and your eyesight!

I advise the troops that I want them to pull over and get a nap when they're having "eye trouble" better to take 15 minutes than to run into something with a $350K snowcat! We fit the power naps into our 30 min lunch and two 15 min breaks. A good day's sleep makes for a good night's work.

I practiced what I preached Thursday. Bedtime had it's way with me during the Noon News. I awoke at 4:30PM, checked the front porch for precip and went back to bed until 9PM...I'm saved!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Grooming 101.8

Damn, I sure mismanaged my first 2-day weekend! Consequently, I paid dearly Wednesday morning. I stayed up all night Monday, my first night off. I succumbed to nature Tuesday and slept five hours, when I should have been up and at 'em.

Aside from great Night Vision, the groomer's most important tool is his Short Term Memory. STM only works well in fully rested brains. Get too little sleep, and the first thing to go is the Short Term Memory.

Tuesday I screwed-up my carefully cultivated sleep cycle...and fortunately Jeweler caught my missed last pass right down the middle of the Easiest Way Down off my mountain's tallest peak.

Efficient groomers save a "last pass" for their way off each mountain...I always say: "If you're grooming corduroy, you're not that sliver for your traveling pass, and put new corduroy everywhere you can".

On the hill, "Proper Prior Planning" on the fly, combined with a well rested STM, equals good production. It's Bedtime.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Back at the Grindstone

Just a quick thought before I surrender to sleep...two days off rocks...My first 2-day "weekend" this season.

AT&T got me the hookup after two tries, two orders and two weeks...I'm good to go now. My WiFi Network is back online and well and truly locked down, so I can do some online reprovisioning...I need some photography gear, photo printer ink, I fancy a Wireless-N Router, and I need a new Rain Slicker.

Once I get back up to speed, I'll resume my Grooming 101 odyssey.

Out doing errands around noon today I was wearing too many had to be 70°F in front of the hardware store! The streets were juicy to be sure. It was positively Spring-like at my mountain too.

Reno forecast, Truckee was +15°F above these Tuesday
Reno's NWS says the next system will be warm...if and when it arrives...their confidence in their models is low today.

In other news, the 34th America's Cup Regatta goes before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors today. Drop 'em a note of support.

San Francisco Business Times has the details.

I hope everyone remembered Pearl Harbor Tuesday...Godspeed sailors and GI's, and thank you all from the bottom of my heart! May God bless you and keep you!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Vision Thing

 It’s not what you think. It’s not that New Age Business clap trap so popular with mid level hacks scheming for greatness from their cubicles. It’s not the rare photographer’s point of view that enables you to recognize a photo as theirs.

When it comes to Grooming 101, the Vision Thing I speak of is the world of windshields, wipers and mirrors.

I came face to face with the Vision Thing on my first night back at the sticks of my trusty old BR350.

After a long day and a short sleep, I rumbled into the parking lot at My Mountain a little before midnight. I surveyed the fleet parked around the shop, and caught up with my crew.

My Mountain had reported 100+ inches of snowfall since Friday night. My first shift was Wednesday, Thanksgiving Eve. Snowmaking temps were in effect, and everyone on the mountain was frantically working to get the resort in opening shape.

Shortly, my machine came roaring up to the fuel dock, manned by a park groomer who was doing double duty as a snowmaker. He apologized for the shape she was in, giving me the bad news that the driver’s side wiper arm was broken…that there was no graveyard mechanic yet, and that their attempted fix only lasted a few wipes.

All was not lost, you can run without wipers in most conditions…until the sun comes up…

But wait there’s more…both mirrors were encrusted with an inch or more of snowmaking rime ice, the electrical connectors were unplugged and their sockets were full of the ice too.

Without the graveyard wrench, the shop and it’s hot water hose were unavailable, and it turns out the ice in the mirror sockets was beyond the half a thermos of hot French Roast remedy. (The electrical connection carries the power to the mirror heater and the actuators that move the mirror)

I soldiered on. Conditions were great considering the early date. The snow was plenty deep, but fly-away dry. The East Wind had built in during the day, and was moving the light fluff up top. This was only a problem when I had to plow away the huge drift atop one of our peaks.

The drift was taller than my cat, and the best place to plow to was a bottomless abyss that I didn’t want to fall into…oh, and I was pushing directly into the 30mph wind!

Thankfully, I had the presence of mind to plow the thing before sunrise. It was a real case of seat of the pants grooming…I used the gut feeling method, and watched the backside of the pile I was pushing for signs of falling.

The seat of the pants method also happens to be the adrenaline method, so I wasn’t missing the sleep I donated to the holiday get-away traffic earlier Wednesday. My trip up the hill was 5:30 long, not the usual 2:50.

Around 0600, I rolled in for fuel and there was the first day mechanic opening the shop. It took twenty minutes for him to replace the broken wiper arm, and it took me five minutes to melt the icebergs off my mirrors and get them plugged back in.

From the comfort of my cat’s brand new driver’s throne the view of Thanksgiving morning through the windshield was spectacular. A Christmas Card view rewarded my perseverance. Five days of snowfall never looked better as the blue sky illuminated my personal Winter Wonderland! I think my office has a view better than the most lavish corner office anywhere.