Saturday, January 28, 2012

Hope Springs Eternal

Two wet nights in a row...just two too many! My favorite old BR350 let me down two out of three shifts so far this week, too. Something's gotta give!

Thursday's storm was a first for the arrived 18 hours ahead of schedule, but it was rain, not flurries... 

Thursday night, after the rain and a day of warm temps, swing shift opted to do little grooming in the rain (the proper call...wouldn't be prudent to turn the whole mountain into boiler-plate!) Tough conditions...fortunately the number of ponds, creeks and sinks is down. Down because the piste is up...a little.

My crew of four tiptoed into the night. Conditions: Delicate. A thin hard tempered crust had formed atop the gooey pack. Things turned out OK if you barely scratched the snow with the blade, careful not to pierce the ''Cream Filled Center", and crawled along slowly enough to let the tiller grind the scrapin's enough to lay acceptable corduroy...

Or you could double pass everything...ahh, double passing...Groomer's Purgatory. You don't get any more groomed, but you see more scenery...faster...twice...

Looking at the remote sensors on Friday evening, I see the temperature has been below 32°F since that midnight shift change Thursday night.

From my glass is half full perspective, tonight will be better. That "cream filled center" will be well below the reach of even the most aggressive, or careless blade. More aggro blade work will yield more scrapin's for hungry tillers, yielding a bit of fairy-dust to comb into corduroy...while praying for calm winds...

A week of these conditions will bring the return of the Alt-Hero Snow, a couple of movable inches of velvety topping that skis nicely during the day, and repairs quickly every night.

The sad truth is Thursday's rain will help us persevere until the storm door reopens in mid-February...and we still have snowmaking to help with the patchwork!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Phobos/Grunt Watch...Post-Post-Mortem

What a pleasant surprise, after my night of rain on My Mountain! When I got home this morning, I fired up the internet to look at my Twitter timeline, and I discovered a new Planet!

No, not another new Exoplanet, but @PlanetCharlene. She came up on @CorduroyPlanet's radar thanks to @PhG_Reentry, who retweeted @PlanetCharlene:"Nice summary of what we know about fall of ...", with a link to Universe Today's latest on Phobos/Grunt's final resting place.

As is par for this course, more questions than answers come up when it's Phobos/Grunt.

@esaoperations published their findings too: "Space debris experts confirm estimate for Phobos–Grunt reentry".

I'm sure we haven't heard the end of Phobos/Grunt...Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Holding Pattern

Tonight finds me a little mind numbed, it could be the aftermath of the light baking that befell me during last night's shift (My Monday)

It was almost 40°F when I arrived at work. On the bright side, we're reporting nearly four feet of new snow for the storm total! I had been looking forward to a shift on the Ol' Hero Snow, but even the prodigious amount of snow from the third and final system of the train, couldn't absorb Friday's drenching by 11+ hours of rain. The piste was a cranky combination of good news and lumpy mashed potatoes...without the gravy to sweeten the pot.

The bounty of snow did wonderful things for us, another peak opened, and all those ponds, puddles and sinks are now buried bad memories. We ran three winchcat shifts, triple the pre-storm level. We would have done more winching save for some electrical gremlins that shut down the graveyard winch pilot after one new trail was opened.

My favorite old BR350 spilled it's guts three hours in, too...a blown tiller motor seal consumed most of my hydrostatic fluid, which I noticed as I made a three-point turn preparing to open another new trail...good thing too. I caught it just in the nick of time to successfully limp her back to the shop without running the pumps and motors dry.

My back-up cat had stereo final six hours were a tuneless, podcast-less drone, playing catch-up. The cavalry came at dawn and we knocked out the work orders by two minutes past opening time...acceptable given that it was mid-week...

The piste will dry while we wait for our old nemesis, the Blocking High to move away again...

I sought solace in some of my other passions...curiously bicycle racing isn't flicking my switch just yet...and I'm still numb from the 49ers' brutal loss in the NFC Championship Game.

However, baseball is on the near horizon! The San Francisco Giants came to terms with their ace, Tim Lincecum Tuesday. Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in three weeks.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the America's Cup Regatta leaped another hurdle.

Motorsports kicks off it's 2012 Season this weekend in Daytona! The 50th Rolex 24 at Daytona Sports Car Endurance Race should be great.

The guy I'm trusting this season with his forecasts says Winter will come back about Daytona 500 time...Mid-February

First estimates say the Modern Warm Period is about to end. Our Sun is still loafing.

Formula One is just 51 days from it's first race of the season in Australia...the wait will be interesting...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Adventures Along the Lincoln Highway

In the days before Winter finally arrived in the Tahoe Sierra, I spent a half a day looking for my Lincoln Highway talisman, the original concrete Lincoln Highway Marker Posts that were among the roughly 3000 that were placed from coast to coast by the Boy Scouts on a single day during their 1928 National Safety Tour to promote the highway and their Marker Post Project!

I haven't found a definitive number of the surviving Marker Posts, but I finally found one intact LH Marker Post up at Big Bend just west of Donner Summit. Closer to home, I found the remains of two more near Donner Lake.

I made some photographs of the Big Bend Post that day, but at the time I was so sad to see the condition of the Donner Lake Posts that I didn't snap a one of them.

Replica LH Marker Post on the 1913 alignment, approximately 100ft from the 1928 road.
Judging from the condition of the Big Bend Post, I have to think it's a replica, not an original. 84 years out in the harsh climate of Donner Summit, with the constant freeze and thaw would be a very extreme test of the concrete's integrity. I would expect some severe spalling from the top down would have lead to the total demise of the post by now.

I should preview my photos before I start blogging about them!
The Lincoln Highway Association offers a Replica LH Marker Post for sale at their Lincoln Highway Trading Post for $725 +Shipping, which could break the bank depending on your location...

Now I know a thing or two about building concrete forms. If I had a blueprint of the original LH Marker Post Forms, I could turn out plenty of replicas! I'd donate two to the property owners who have the wrecked Marker Posts on their Donner Lake properties.

You know, Truckee doesn't have a single intact LH Marker Post within the Town Boundaries...and that's about 75 square miles, filthy with Lincoln Highway history!

I'm going to plea with the Lincoln Highway Association to make the blueprints available on their website. Maybe a combo with the LH Marker Post Lincoln Medallion!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Phobos/Grunt Watch...Post-Mortem

So it's been a week since Phobos/Grunt plunged into oblivion, and the news of the Russian probe has disappeared into oblivion as well. (I must confess that I have been a little less than vigilant since Thursday when the long Winter's drought began to end, and my NFL Football team the San Francisco 49ers were playing for a berth in the Super Bowl™)

So we've all been waiting for some definitive word on Phobos/Grunt's demise. No word has been forthcoming since reentry. There is still a little finger pointing coming from Russian sources.

Finally, this could be closure:

@Zarya_Info tweets: "Phobos-Grunt - SpaceTrack has issued a full TIP Message for the decay: , notes & updated map:"

Zarya's posted his Phobos/Grunt Wrap-Up Blog.

@cosmos4u tweets: "Eight days after Fobos-Grunt came down, the U.S. military "suddenly" claims to know precisely(!) when & where: -source?"

As an American taxpayer, I'd be dismayed if US Stratcom didn't watch reentry in realtime from it's vast array of Spy Satellites. Furthermore, I'd expect them to keep their hand close to the vest, lest they tip potential adversaries to our surveillance capabilities.

Thanks for following along everyone! Stay tuned...there's tons of satellites in decaying orbits. I'll cover the next one when in shows up on my radar!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Friday Night Lights

Friday night's shift started slow, but finished on higher notes.

The storm came in with much higher snow levels than we'd like. On my way into work, the torrential rain made driving much rain became standing water because the crown of the roads couldn't drain the rain as fast as it fell. Had it been snow, it would have been 6+ inches/hour!

Snow levels lowered to pass level at 11:30PM after raining all day. It was way ugly...

Swing shift was grateful to finish their shifts, and advised we "take our time getting out there" we happily agreed...time to let the mountain "drain"...

We'd tallied around six inches of snow by 4AM. More hours of drain time were needed, but you can't make time...

In 30 years on my mountain, I've never seen more puddles, sinks and water running over the piste...we attacked it head-on...digging ditches...

Every "water feature" needed help draining. Blade a trench to help the water drain from the piste. Wherever possible we enlisted the lift operators to "do the finish work" to speed the drainage.

The bunny hill complex was our biggest problem...

Now I've seen plenty of rain on My Mountain over the years, but this is the first time I've seen so much rain on top of such a slim "base". The bunny hill has several "flats" that all became ponds or lakes.The pack is so thin, you can't "trench" it to help it drain, lest you tear up the erosion-control stuff...water bars and berms mostly. So we wait...I'm guessing the bunny complex didn't open at all Saturday.

Once we'd drained as much as time would allow, we pasted everything back together, and packed up.

Five modern groomers working as a pack is an awesome thing to behold, easily leaving 60-70 feet of corduroy in it's wake. The pack re-rolled half the open trails in a jiffy. The top of the mountain opened an hour late...but it opened with fresh corduroy from top to bottom.

After the soggy start, the groomers were treated to a half an hour on hero snow...the first of the season. Tonight's gonna ROCK!