Back East NSAA

Back East NSAA

Postby Tom400CFI on 02 Feb 2014, 21:43

Anyone going to be at the EAST NSAA Show?

Phat Cat?
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Re: Back East NSAA

Postby Canadianbombar on 17 Feb 2014, 17:06

East?? Where are you now Tom?
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Re: Back East NSAA

Postby Tom400CFI on 22 Feb 2014, 20:37

Mount Snow! :)
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Re: Back East NSAA

Postby admin on 22 Feb 2014, 22:51

Tom400CFI wrote:Mount Snow! :)


That's a bit of a change, eh? Not to derail the thread too much, but I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on how eastern grooming operations differs from the Rockies. I made the opposite move, East to West. Everything seems so easy out here! No more zamboni-on-ice nights, no 3 foot dumps of sleet/wet snow, no major freeze-thaw cycles, no rain... it's almost too easy. So just wondering what you think heading from West to East.
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Re: Back East NSAA

Postby Tom400CFI on 23 Feb 2014, 22:24

Well...it's different. But not in the ways that you're talking about (so much). Yeah, there is more rain, freeze/thaw...but we had that where I was out west too. What I see that is the biggest problem is:
1. Attracting good ops due to low pay and lack of "panache"
2. Slopes getting slaughtered on BIG weekend days. Out west, we'd do 6k on a big day, and 3k on week days. Here, we do 11K+ on 500 acres. I don't care what you do to the snow surface at night...it's going to get creamed during a day like that.

I've experimented w/a renovator, and a lot of rebuilding, but the fact is, when you put 10k+ people down a hand full of runs...you're going to get ICE, where ever you are. That's my take away, so far.


BTW: I've been wanting to tell you that I'm impressed by your write up in the last issue of SAM. Nice piece!
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Re: Back East NSAA

Postby admin on 23 Feb 2014, 23:51

Tom400CFI wrote:Well...it's different. But not in the ways that you're talking about (so much). Yeah, there is more rain, freeze/thaw...but we had that where I was out west too. What I see that is the biggest problem is:
1. Attracting good ops due to low pay and lack of "panache"
2. Slopes getting slaughtered on BIG weekend days. Out west, we'd do 6k on a big day, and 3k on week days. Here, we do 11K+ on 500 acres. I don't care what you do to the snow surface at night...it's going to get creamed during a day like that.

I've experimented w/a renovator, and a lot of rebuilding, but the fact is, when you put 10k+ people down a hand full of runs...you're going to get ICE, where ever you are. That's my take away, so far.


Interesting... thanks for the input. Skier density is definitely a big difference.

BTW: I've been wanting to tell you that I'm impressed by your write up in the last issue of SAM. Nice piece!


Thanks! It's a topic of great intrigue for me. I actually wrote a much longer piece, with lots of scholastic philosophy references. But few would really want to read that, so I worked up the shorter, to-the-point version you read in SAM. And you'll see my name on another article in March... a much bigger one (the annual groomer report). I think it turned out alright... but you can be the judge.
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Re: Back East NSAA

Postby Tom400CFI on 24 Feb 2014, 18:46

Cool! I look forward to reading that.
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Re: Back East NSAA

Postby Canadianbombar on 25 Feb 2014, 08:44

Congrats on the New Job Tom! You're within' "Pop in" distance of me now...lol. You need to work on the pay structure there regarding problem #1. I've never understood why there's such a huge discrepancy in pay in the industry from resort to resort....area to area. It's not a major have resort vs. have not resort thing either....Some of the best paying jobs in business can be had at smaller areas with next to no money who know they need someone who knows their #$%$ to get twice as much done with old equipment while not breaking it. Meanwhile....you have large 'have" resorts that routinely spend 1 million on new cats every winter who field a budget for staffing a 20 man grooming dept of 150K. I have always believed the pay scale for ops should be $12 an hour for never evers with equipment experience....$18 for a good 3 year guy....and $30 for a 10 year guy with a track record of looking after the gear while getting a lot done in a shift. Some places pay that. On the other end of the scale...some places think the scale should run $9-$13...$10 for you first 10 years....$13 for the next 20...lol....and then wonder why they have near 100% turn over and/or the worst ops. Sure you can get lucky once in a blue moon and get a retired farmer who will do a hell of job for $12 an hour....but he's doing it for fun and to get away from his wife for a few hours...and doesn't need to make a living. There's a video of Stan (grooming ops manager) at Whistler on the internet somewhere likening hiring groomers to building a hockey team. You need park guys....you need older experienced guys to lead and train....you need winch guys....and even the right never evers who you can properly train right from scratch and hopefully get to keep. Whistler will hire experienced guys from as far away as Europe...but still hire a never ever or 2 that they think have the right stuff. Usually the never evers are snowmakers who know the mountain....they dangle the fact you can get transferred from snowmaking as a carrot to keep passive snowmakers around for a bit longer than they might have stayed otherwise. Their pay isn't industry leading...but it's nothing close to $9-$13 either. It IS industry leading if you factor in the quality of life there and the quality of the equipment you get to run though....and they know that...and factor it in and use it as a sales pitch when hiring. Anyways...I'm not telling you anything new I'm sure...more laying out the case you need to make to ownership to explain why the dept isn't staffed like it should be....and how paying a little bit more might actually mean paying a little bit less overall (in terms of better productivity/less broken equipment) and heading towards netting you a ski mag grooming title which ads to the top line.
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Re: Back East NSAA

Postby Canadianbombar on 25 Feb 2014, 09:06

Hey Patrick....congrats on the story! When the heck did you get time to write one? lol Can it be viewed online?

Having worked both coasts...I always felt the east was easier myself. In my experience..in the west...you're always getting either way too much snow or not enough. I've been in situations where snow was so slim in the west that I'm nosing into the woods to back drag it out to try and cover a run because they don't have snowmaking. I've been in situations where it would snow 2 feet...almost every day....for weeks on end...making things so soft you would be fighting to climb a green run and be scared to death of 3/4 cat wide cat tracks breaking away on you..sending you down a steep pitch or cliff sideways....and there's actually places you have to be really concerned about avalanches. The east? Always bulletproof. Never dug coffins or tobogganed over here once. No snow? No problem.....turn on a gun. I think it's been a fairly slow snow year out there so you haven't really experienced what the west can throw at you yet....and/or you have fairly mild terrain at that resort. On the flip side....I had pretty tame terrain at the eastern resorts I worked at and some knarlier stuff out west. I think the terrain we actually worked on may well factor heavily into both our opinions at this point.
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Re: Back East NSAA

Postby admin on 25 Feb 2014, 15:07

Canadianbombar wrote:Hey Patrick....congrats on the story! When the heck did you get time to write one? lol Can it be viewed online?



Thanks! Here's the little piece from January: http://www.saminfo.com/article/speakout ... all-moguls. The big article will be in the March edition, and not sure whether they'll publish it online or not.

I wrote the mogul piece ages ago, and just recently edited it for the SAM publication. The annual groomer report I had to squeeze into a busy schedule of managing the entire IT infrastructure, and still grooming 3 nights at Ski Cooper, along with my other gig as organist for a Catholic Church in the city. Thinking back, I'm not really sure where I found the time. But I did!

Having worked both coasts...I always felt the east was easier myself. In my experience..in the west...you're always getting either way too much snow or not enough. I've been in situations where snow was so slim in the west that I'm nosing into the woods to back drag it out to try and cover a run because they don't have snowmaking. I've been in situations where it would snow 2 feet...almost every day....for weeks on end...making things so soft you would be fighting to climb a green run and be scared to death of 3/4 cat wide cat tracks breaking away on you..sending you down a steep pitch or cliff sideways....and there's actually places you have to be really concerned about avalanches. The east? Always bulletproof. Never dug coffins or tobogganed over here once. No snow? No problem.....turn on a gun. I think it's been a fairly slow snow year out there so you haven't really experienced what the west can throw at you yet....and/or you have fairly mild terrain at that resort. On the flip side....I had pretty tame terrain at the eastern resorts I worked at and some knarlier stuff out west. I think the terrain we actually worked on may well factor heavily into both our opinions at this point.


You're last point is definitely a big factor. I went from winching gnarly eastern terrain to putzing about on mellow western terrain. Although we do have two trails we groom regularly that fall into the definitively sketchy category after a storm, can't be climbed until well set up, and usually involve significant downhill slides with soft snow. And I can relate to the nights of not being able to climb green terrain... had two storms like that this season. In fact, we've actually had a huge snow year. We're almost to our annual average snowfall, and the snowiest month is still ahead. Two weeks ago we had 30" in two days, and probably more than 70" in a week, followed by 50-70mph winds. So it hasn't exactly been snowless and easy in that regard. However, avalanches are admittedly not a particular concern on the terrain I'm grooming. It's below treeline, not excessively steep, and doesn't load up too much.

But I think I'm also coming from a different angle on this. When I say it's easier here, what I mean is that it's easier to create a desirable surface. Back east, it was a constant fight with heavy blading and aggressive tiller settings just to break up the boilerplate. And it was discouraging, because no matter how good it looked at the end of the shift, the nature of the conditions meant that by 11am the next morning, it was miserable skiing (read: icy cat tracks and piles of granular junk at the bottom of common turn locations). Granted, e had some great conditions back there as well. But always interspersed with freeze-thaw cycles, rain, mixed precip, usually followed by sub-zero temps. Here, it's more or less powder / packed powder conditions 95% of the time. Are there tough days? Sure. Is the deep snow a pain? It can be... but we had bigger storms in the east. We get more snow overall here, but I had to groom after some 50-60" storms back east (no joke... and that in less than 48 hours!) that were more serious than the storms we've had here thus far (though who knows what's on the way...). Nothing a little up pressure and articulation (and a LOT of patience) can't fix!

Most of the time here, I can dial in the tiller (BR) around 50% speed, close the snow chamber, carry a comfortable snow roll in the blade, and be guaranteed a really nice surface for the entire ski day.

But I think you're totally right that the particular area and terrain has a great impact on ease of grooming. Nevertheless, I'm also looking more from the surface quality angle rather than the equipment operation angle.
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