Monday, March 21, 2011


Another blast of Winter pummeled my mountain overnight.

It all started innocently enough, I first 11+ hour shift in over a month took it's toll...throw in the extra work of snow removal at the DaveCave, and I guess I needed every wink I could eke out.

Looking out the window as I turned on the shower, I noted one new inch on the front deck. Up in the driveway, there were two inches...not enough to deploy the snowblower, so off to work I went.

I parked in two inches of fresh snow, and trundled up the shop road. Everyone was there, and the fleet was whole as well. Plenty of digging to do, and the forecast promised another pounding.

We began with some trail breaking. Job One on these heavy storm nights is to keep passable routes open to the tops of every peak. Snowmobile access is critical to opening the lifts. Our lift mechanics inspect and fire up the lifts just before 0600. The first people to ride the lifts every storm day are our ski patrollers who do the Avalanche Control.

Visibility was pretty good. The much ballyhooed "Super Moon" was lighting up our world to fine effect. We spent a couple of hours packing out the mountaintop routes before we began grooming the basics. It was really snowing hard.

We endured the usual issues...lousy 2-way performance, lagging defrosters, and windshield wiper woes. We employed the usual work-arounds and soldiered on. We had the situation well in hand...

Around 0400, it was time to hit the mountaintop routes again. We packed-up and began heading up. Before we were even hitting the first steep, Eskimo radioed that his cat was running hot and he had a "burning smell". We relayed his dilemma to the Graveyard Wrench, and Jeweler escorted him to the base area where Eskimo could find his way to the shop despite his weak defroster.

I continued up. Halfway up this route is a huge, steepening meadow devoid of landmarks. In round numbers, it's a square, a quarter of a mile on a side. When the seeing is good, crossing the meadow is a piece of cake. When the seeing is lousy, I rely on my experience. The only real landmarks define the outsides of the square. Making things even more interesting is there are only two or three passes that are climbable when the going gets deep, and you must land precisely on these spots at the correct angle to climb to the beginning of the traverse cat track that leads to the top.

I couldn't see shit. It was a total whiteout. The winds weren't that bad, it was just snowing so hard that the far flung landmarks were totally obscured. The 2-way crackled as my phone rang. The Boss was on the phone. He was on his way, but had to stop to change a flat tire. "How's things going Dave?" "Well, it was going great, but now we're getting spanked" I told him..."See you when you get here".

The radio was Eskimo saying: "I'm headed back out, we couldn't find any problem" "10-4" I replied, telling him where to meet Jeweler. Five minutes later Eskimo was back on the air...he was limping back to the shop with his overheating cat. "Fire up one of the winchcats, Eskimo"...We were down to just the two of us...Mother Nature was kicking it up another notch or two...

After a long fifteen minutes of helplessly talking on the phone and radio in total darkness to let my night vision come in, I finally hit the sweet spot, and made the climb to the top. The snow was really piling up fast now.

The Boss made it out on the hill just before 0600, and the digging began in earnest. Operations made the call to abandon opening two of three mountaintop lifts and we got two lifts open at 9AM, a third at 9:10, and the last one, the one with Big Blind Meadow at 9:25

Eskimo called it a day, Jeweler, the Park Guy, and the Boss pounded trails and roads on the closed peaks, and I did the digging back at the shop. I made my online report minutes before the Noon Deadline. I punched out and walked down to the parking lot...there was more than two feet in the lot! The parts runner and Jeweler's ride and Park Guy's Subaru were all buried...nobody else had made it into the lot.

I called Jeweler on the phone. I asked him to bring his cat down the shop road to dig us out. Jeweler had us dug out in three minutes. I pulled the parts runner onto Jeweler's pass and cleared the snow off the rig. The Interstate was close due to an avalanche on the westbound side, according to Rumor Control. It was Friday night for me, and I was going to spend it in the DaveCave, come Hell or high water!

The Highway was empty, but the going was good. I made it home without drama. A Pastrami/Cream Cheese Omelet was breakfast, and I turned in after 2PM.

I woke up at 0130, fully rested...encore indeed...

It was a good week, the avalanche closed HWY89 near Alpine Meadows for a time, no cars trapped, we did "Strong Work" all week, and I'm feeling fulfilled this morning. Relaxed and better way to begin Springtime!

No comments:

Post a Comment