Friday, January 27, 2012

De-Icing the Lifts and Full Steam Ahead


As I write this, many of our staff are still working on the hill getting lifts and trails open. It was an interesting night of mixed weather. This year has been challenging to say the least, but the hardest issue to deal with is when the lifts are frozen. This requires an all hands on deck response to get things up and going. It is an amazing production of re-grooming trails, cleaning lifts and trying to keep guests and staff informed as to what is going on.

Depending on how much ice there might be, each lift tower might have to be climbed and each chair grip hit with a rubber mallet to loosen the ice. When cleaning the lift towers, each employee wears a safety harness and is hitched in. Radios are used to notify others when to try to move the lift and each man on their tower needs to be sure that the sheaves (wheels) are moving. The biggest challenge is keeping the chairs moving through the top and bottom terminals of the detachable chairlifts. As the chairs go through the terminal, rubber tires move the chair along by pushing the chair grip along on a track. Similar to a car, if there is ice, the tires get to spinning and the chair gets stuck. The secret is to realizing that the chairs are not moving and having enough staff on hand to physically drag the chairs through the terminal and out the other side. The record for chairs stacked up in the terminal is around 6. That guy had to buy drinks for the rest of the crew!

When choosing which lifts to clean first, the mountain manager looks at the options. Most likely, the fixed grip chairlifts are cleaned first and then the detachable. We also take into account what the day is looking like in regards to skiers & riders as well what the weather might be during the day. It is easier to get the lifts going and keep them going even if they won’t be used during the day.

I also wanted to update you on the status of the Okemo Half pipe. Okemo has begun construction on our half pipe. While this year’s pipe won’t be a Super pipe, we are anticipating that the half pipe will be 14 feet tall and over 350 feet long. Snow has been made at the top of the pipe and while there is some more snow that needs to be made, we are well on our way to having a half pipe. Anticipated opening is the middle of next week.

The entire Okemo staff has been working hard to deal with the challenges this year and try to outsmart Mother Nature. Hopefully you, our guests have realized this effort and have not been impacted too much. Snowmaking continues as we are heading into February. Thanks for your support.

As always thanks for skiing and riding with us. If you want to follow what is going on from my desk, follow me on twitter @okemogm

See you on the slopes,

Bruce Schmidt
Okemo GM