Friday, February 10, 2012

Okemo Secrets Revealed....

How is that for a dramatic title?

Winter continues to be here. And, we are going to see some winter temperatures in the next few days. A lot of time when cold fronts roll through, they wring out any moisture in the atmosphere as they cross the mountains and thus you get mountain squalls. Somewhat like when we see cold fronts come through in the summer, although due to the heat in the summer, thunderstorms develop.

As you are skiing or riding around Okemo, check out the halfpipe. We are getting a lot of comments on it, and it is getting some good use being smaller and more rider friendly. (Someone called it cute, which I immediately corrected her that it is gnarly and not cute...)! The Halfpipe is normally cut every 2 to 3 days depending on the weather and other factors. Our seasoned groomer John is the main pipe cutter. John has many years’ experience in a groomer and does a great job cutting the pipe. Through the years the terrain park staff and mountain operations have refined the cutting of the Halfpipe into a science.

The process begins with the Zaugg Halfpipe cutter hitched up to the winch cat groomer. John brings over the unit to the Halfpipe and prepares to begin his cut. Prior to the Zaugg arriving, the Mountain Operations guys have set up the "Laser". The laser is a rotating beam which sends a frequency light signal to a receiver located on the top edge of the Zaugg. This receiver signal is also picked up in the winch cat, telling the operator where the vertical edge should be, which in turn keeps the Zaugg in line and the walls straight and parallel. One is located on the left hand side of the lower arrow trail in the woods and the other is located on the right hand side of mountain road. Both get turned on and are calibrated for the edge of the pipe. The laser is turned on and begins to spin.

Next step is for John to bring the winch cat up to the top of the pipe and hitch the winch cable to the tower at the top of the pipe. John then lines up the top of the Zaugg with the laser beam and when he has the correct level; he gets a green light on his windshield and begins to cut the pipe. Think of a skill saw following a line on the board as you cut a straight line.

Up the halfpipe and down the halfpipe, John goes. Normally it takes 3 passes on each side of the halfpipe. Once the cut is done, John unhitches the winch cat cable from the anchor and heads the cat and Zaugg back to the maintenance shop. Another halfpipe has been cut for our pipe riding guests. So now you know another secret of how things are done on the hill.

The entire Okemo staff has been working hard to deal with the challenges this year and try to outsmart Mother Nature. Hopefully you have realized this effort and have not been impacted too much. Snowmaking continues as the weather remains cold in February.

Think snow and 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