Friday, April 8, 2011


Last night was more welcome than home made ice cream right from the churn!

Snow started falling in the evening across the Tahoe Sierra. I parked in three inches of new fallen snow when I got to work. Swing shift were happy as clams! What's not to like? Freezing temps, new snow, and for the first time in digging projects!

My tractor was running like new. We've been trying to track down a glitch in the drive for two weeks now. Not always the easiest chore...yesterday it came to me, or rather I remembered the fix from a season or two ago. The shop replaced the potentiometer in the left FNR lever and problem solved!

BR350's, like all modern grooming machines are electronic over hydrostatic systems. The FNR sticks control the track drives. My Ol' Faithful has more than 8700 hours on the clock, but it never has suffered a total loss of hydrostatic fluid, so the pumps and motors are still in like-new condition. The glitch we've been chasing looks like impending pump or motor failure that every groomer who's spent much time in BR275's or earlier snowcats is all too familiar with.

When Bombardier designed the BR350, not only did they up the ante horsepower-wise, they also used a lot more hardline and a lot less high pressure hose in the drive system. The bottom line is a whole lot fewer total fluid loss events and consequently a whole lot longer drive system life. All it takes is one or two of these fluid loss events to fry a pump and/or motor...their tolerances are that tight. Then it's $8000+ to rebuild a pump or motor, and a bunch of down time while repairs are made.

The FNR pot is a cheap component, and a quick fix. They are a wear item, and eventually they grow a flat spot...this is what I remembered and the shop fixed.

I warmed up the ol' girl and set off into the snowstorm. It was blowing like stink, and the conditions finally were in our favor...we would have time to start grooming some secondary trails that have seen little love during the siege of snowfall followed by a long week of balmy temps.

I rumbled over to the study plot to look at the 24 hour snow was laying on it's side. I started grooming my way up the mountain...seeing wasn't the greatest, but nobody was complaining! The winds were picking up. I called Jeweler on the 2-way. I wanted to know how the winds were up top. "50-60MPH steady from the Southwest" came Jeweler's reply.

With the 24 hour stick out of commission, I called the Snow Removal Crew to get an idea of how much snow had fallen since morning. They said two or three inches, max. It had been snowing and blowing for almost four straight hours, but it didn't seem to be stacking up. Oh, the wind was playing havoc with our freshly made corduroy, but it was getting blown away, not buried.

At 0400, I called the Ski Patrol Boss like I do every Storm Night. We discussed the snowfall and wind, and he makes the Go/No-Go Call for Avalanche Control. Despite the dearth of snowfall, the winds were the determining factor. A/C is a Go.

We refueled the fleet by 0500 and we packed up and made the push to the tops for the lift mechanics. By the tine I hit the Big Blind Meadow, twilight was dawning making navigating a snap. Lots of drifting up top, but no genuine accumulation. Thankfully no digging was required to open the lifts...just a quick till of the maze areas.

My crew re-rolled everything basic and headed up to help the Park Guy down the stretch. Patches of blue sky were breaking through the clouds, and sunglasses were deployed. Back at the Groomer's Ready Room, the guys were ebullient...the mood was joyous for a change.

Better than home made ice cream fresh from the churn!


  1. How about hot potatoes right from the hot piney pitch? Or real maple syrup drizzled over the new snow? MMMMM, of course with the cheeseburger and fries! And, the Pepsi, Pepsi, please.

    Stop! Your making me hungry.

  2. Mmmm, Potatoes in resin...

    You want ketchup with that?