Thursday, December 16, 2010

Grooming - the unsung hero

I’ve had several guests mention to me that the skiing and riding conditions have been better than what they expected after the weather conditions the past 10 days or so. That is great to hear. To say that this early season has been a difficult one in terms of weather is an understatement. Our first measurable snowfall was actually the second week of December!

Following an early season weather event we have the luxury of being able to go back and make snow on the small number of trails that are open. When we have 50 or more trails open, it is just not possible, especially if we are also trying to open new skiable terrain. Enter grooming.

The groomers have several ways to work their magic in this circumstance. The first option is blading the trail. This entails bringing snow in from the side of the trail and working it back into the middle. This brings fresher crystal and better snow back into skiable areas. Another option is to run the blade deeper than normal while mountain tilling. This brings more snow up to the surface to be worked over. Another trick used on steeper trails is called "winching" the trail. This is a little more complicated.

The winch cat is a groomer with a large spool of cable on a drum on the middle of the machine. This cable is attached to another grooming machine, a tree, or in some cases a cable inserted into the ground (during summer months). By regulating the winch cat's speed while maintaining tension on the cable, the cat operator can pull himself up the trail with minimal spinning and a full blade of snow. This tactic allows the groomers to bring snow which is at the bottom of a trail, back up to the upper half of the terrain.

Okemo groomers are second to none. Essentially they are the caretakers of our snow. The two work in tandem, each relying on the other to make our snow surface the very best it can be.

Back to snowmaking. We are now blowing snow in the South Face area and anticipate opening up that area this coming weekend. Snowmaking has also begun on (drumroll please......) Sachem and the Superpipe! I am also hopeful that the other slopeside trails will be open by the weekend. Our next step will be making snow on Tuckered Out and heading down towards the Morning Star lift - with the goal of having that area open for skiing and riding around Christmas.

I continue to thank you for all your support and comments. We realize we are only as good as our last run, and continue to work hard to meet your expectations.

Happy Holidays.

Bruce Schmidt
VP and GM
Okemo Mountain Resort

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