A Night in the Life of a Snowcat Operator


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  1. #1

    A Night in the Life of a Snowcat Operator

    Back in 2009, when I was a green rookie groomer, I wrote a post here about a night in the life of a Mt. Ellen groomer (see http://forums.alpinezone.com/showthr...ushmogulmaster). Years later, I guess it caught one of the Admin's eyes at EpicSki, and they asked me to write a "Mountain Article" on the topic. So, i took the old piece, made it ski-resort-neutral, and cleaned the whole thing up a bit.

    Hope you enjoy. Cheers!

    For most people, a day at the ski resort ends around 4:00PM. But for a few twilight warriors, the day is just beginning. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a groomer, here’s your chance to get a sneak-peek into a “Night in the Life of a Snowcat Operator.”

    Your job is to spend the night undoing what the skiers spent their day doing. You cut off bumps, you fill low spots, you move snow back uphill and toward the center of trails. You resurface and refresh the snow, so that the skiers can enjoy it all over again the next day. Your job is both art and science. You’re a “rookie” for at least 4 years, and you’re not a veteran for many, many more. But you are a groomer, and you have the best job in the world!

    It’s 3:45 pm, and you arrive at vehicle maintenance shop for your swing shift. After you punch in, it’s time to review the night's grooming plan. Your supervisor has outlined your assignments, and you have a short window to ask questions or get clarification on grooming tasks or special projects before he heads home to sleep like the rest of the world. Once your tasks are clear, it’s time get your machine running and warmed up. But first things first: pre-operations inspection.
    You take a walk around the machine, looking over the track belts, grousers, tires, sprockets, and frame. You have a look at your blade frame and hoses, and your tiller lifting frame, tiller hoses, and the tiller itself. You check your motor oil, hydraulic oil, and coolant, and you’re sure to unplug your block heater. Driving off while still plugged in can have shocking results after all. And now it’s time to fire the old girl up. If it’s below zero, you may have to crank on it for a while, but never more than 30 seconds at a time. You don’t want to burn up a starter. Once she’s running, you take a quick look/listen/smell for anything unusual, then you head back into the shop for 10 or 15 minutes while the cat warms up, and you chat with the mechanics and fellow groomers.


    Read the rest on LinkedIn with photos, etc. at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/night...?trk=prof-post

  2. #2
    Thanks for the interesting and informative read! Does the midnight shift continue grooming all throughout the night then?

  3. #3
    Great read. I enjoyed going back to the earlier az post you linked as well since it focused on things from a sugarbush perspective. I've always found grooming fascinating and it certainly is much more complicated than most people realize.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Sons of Thunder View Post
    Thanks for the interesting and informative read! Does the midnight shift continue grooming all throughout the night then?
    Different areas run different shifts; but a 4pm-12am swing shift followed by a 12am-8am graveyard is fairly standard.

  5. #5
    thetrailboss's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    NEK by Birth; Alta/Snowbird by Choice
    Very cool!
    Live, Ski, or Die!

  6. #6

    Sent from my iPhone using AlpineZone

  7. #7
    Well done, BMM. I hope they commission a follow-up piece on the groomer's most important job - seeding mogul runs!

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