Friday, April 22, 2011

Bait and Switch

Another night that looked bad on paper (read online) turned out better than OK by the time all was said and done.

It's starting to remind me of an LP record skipping...yet another night wherein I go to work already hunkered down as if the Sword of Damocles is freshly honed and zeroing in on my fat, juicy neck!

I woke up to my 10PM alarm and was alarmed to hear the rain blasting my front door like the Big Bad Monsoon was trying to go all Three Little Pigs on my ass. None the less, I got ready for work and headed up the hill at my usual appointed hour.

Sheets of rain and too warm temps greeted me as I dashed up to the driveway. It was warm and wet...big time...I started the Parts Runner, and thought I should run back downstairs and grab my book...I'd probably have time to read it while we wait for the snow level to drop!

Out on the roads, I thought: Not a night fit for man nor beast. Roads were running like rivers and it was way dark. I didn't lock the hubs on the parts runner...after all, the webcams and remote sensors confirmed the high freezing levels.

Well, the webcams and remote sensors weren't 100% correct...I ran into snow on the highway about a half mile from the summit. Pellet-style snow was beating on the windows and sticking to the pavement like so much mini hail. It was slick as can be. I made the last half mile drift-style...very little traction...lots of steering input...a smug smile came upon my face as I crested the summit.

The Groomer's Ready Room was a grim place save for All Star Winch Pilot who was punching out for the last time this season...Vacation Time Baby! It turns out the piste was even worse...somewhere between mashed potatoes and potato soup. Jeweler and I began the slow slog...

Jeweler went high looking for relief, the theory being up top the snow should be colder and drier...not so much it turned out. I went to the bottom of the mountain opting to pound the flats until the snow level fell to the forecast Lake Level. I took a look at the mid-mountain snow stake...less than two inches at 12:45AM, I had to call the Ski Patrol leader at 0400 with the snow total so he could make the Go/No Go Avalanche Control call.

I hunted far and wide for things to do that didn't involve any steeps, so I groomed all our pedestrian paths that were really a mess...all torn up by naked snowcats...I wouldn't want to walk on them. Naked in this context means without tillers...If the forecast delivered, they'd be sweet by morning. Even though the graupel continued to fall, the mercury was taking it's own sweet time to follow suit. Jeweler's CenterX Bison is equipped with an external thermometer which clung maddeningly to 39°F. "C'mon forecast" I rooted!

Around 0300 I drove into our WiFi Cloud and checked my Twitter feed...chain controls were finally up....seems the temps were beginning to go our 0350 my BR350 made a loud BANG! and lost some RPMs and power. The engine temp shot up. I stopped and shut down the tiller...the temp dropped like a stone. I limped the 200 yards to the mid-mountain stake. As I reached for my phone it started ringing. I discussed the night's totals with the Patrol Leader...the stake still showed the same under two inches it had three and a half hours earlier. Even with the robust winds, the call was No Go. I hung up and keyed the mic: "Jeweler, can you come pick me up? I've got a downed cat over here" "On my way" Jeweler came back.

Conditions continued to improve, though the Bison I climbed into had stereo issues that even my iPod and FM transmitter couldn't overcome. My cat's trouble turned out to be a Turbo Boost Hose that came adrift. My cat was back at the shop before we finished the morning re-rolls.

Back at the fuel dock there was a good 4-5 inches on the ground. The final hour or so was weirdly satisfying. Usually re-rolls are just a grind, but this morning, in light of the awful conditions overnight, the last hour was at least a little uplifting. We were all quite chipper once we were out of our cats for the day.

All's well that ends well...there's always tonight...on paper it's looking good!

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