Low snow year slope prep

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Low snow year slope prep

Postby cbender on 09 Jan 2012, 14:46

Ok, folks, I need some help. I have been asked to teach a class at the Colorado ski country USA spring conference related to low snow year tactics/strategies. Obviously, this is a current event for us in Colorado. What I am asking the forum is to comment on your three go to strategies for creating or maintaining good slope conditions in a low snow year. At copper, we have been changing the way we do our track packing and do a very aggressive trail renovating program. We have also been doing some additional winch cat rebuilds on intermediate trails.

Any suggestions given will be used to help develop the content for this short course. Thanks!

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Re: Low snow year slope prep

Postby Canadianbombar on 10 Jan 2012, 23:00

Snowmaking.....snowmaking......snowmaking?!? lol It's a low snow year almost everywhere Curt. Only place I know of that is deep right now is BC....in some places it's tracking over double normal. I don't really know how to answer your question....as if you're grooming your mountain properly you don't do anything different low snow year or not. Fold the sides in to the middle...push up...etc. I've been desperate enough for snow to be nosing in to the woods to back drag it out to cover stuff....that's the only thing I can think of that I've done that not everyone would do....but it's not exactly earth shattering. On that same note....there's a resort called Sutton in Quebec that used to do the same with some sort of vacuum hose? They would send the snowmaking guys into the woods and suck snow out onto the trail? Not sure if they still do it or not...was like 1990 when I last heard tell of that.
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Re: Low snow year slope prep

Postby cbender on 11 Jan 2012, 14:39

10-4, I completely understand the difficulty in answering this question. Long ago and far away, before we had a lot of snowmaking, my crew at Taos took sheets of visquene into the trailside woods and shoveled snow so it would slide down to where the cats could access it. Kind of the same idea as the much more expensive snow vacuum you mention. I would find it very easy to discuss the topic if the session were only 10 or 15 minutes long :lol:
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Re: Low snow year slope prep

Postby Tom400CFI on 12 Jan 2012, 13:44

Towable "Side dump"? That is something that I'm keen on for moving a good volume of snow (man made, probably) long distances.

Low profile Grousers for trackpacking low snow and not turning up brown (as much)

I like CBomber's idea of nosing into the woods. I do it. Nothing innovative about it, but it you commit some time, you can farm a good bit of snow that way.


I also agree with SNOWMAKING. That is the bottom line. It needs to be pursued and managed like Sunday River used to back in the '90's. That philosophy was the answer, IMO. Too bad that it has fallen out of vogue and simply not accepted out west., IMO.

But low snow? Tread lightly, and farm like a mad man! I don't think there are too many "hidden secrets" out there...you just do the best with what you've got.
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Re: Low snow year slope prep

Postby Canadianbombar on 13 Jan 2012, 00:42

Actually....your "farming" comment there reminded me of snow fences etc. Up here in Canada at resorts with above treeline areas we set up snow fences in opportune places (typical low snow points) across the historical main drift directions (typically up) to "catch" the snow when windy. If one has enough snow.....you can create walls and trenches with the cats pre-season to trap snow as well. I can't believe that I forgot that I was the point man for the largest snow moving operation (due to lack of snow on a mountain) ever in the history of North America! We trucked hundreds of end dump loads of snow from fields at the resort I was grooming ops Manager at (Manning Park) 4 hours over to Cypress, to then be heli-lifted up the Mountain to the 2010 Olympic venues! THAT is what one does in a low snow year if one has a spare 5 million to blow! lol :mrgreen: Maybe we've got you up to half an hour now? lol
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Re: Low snow year slope prep

Postby Canadianbombar on 13 Jan 2012, 01:08

The Vanoc snow moving operation...Feel free to use the pics if you like Curt...might make for interesting convo :D

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Re: Low snow year slope prep

Postby cbender on 15 Jan 2012, 11:23

Thanks CBomber, nice photos!
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Re: Low snow year slope prep

Postby mtnventures31 on 24 Jan 2012, 15:26

Hey Curt,

Congrats on teaching and welcome to our grooming surface here on the East Coast. I would have to say that snow making would be the best way to solve this problem but considering that it is 48 degrees here and raining I would have to say that even snow making has its flaws. For snow making I would build piles and instead of letting them sit for a couple days push the piles out sooner rather than later. This would allow the water trapped in the piles to spread out and create a foundation of ice which won't be the best surface but it will hold. But since we don't have giant spray cans full of snow attached to our cats here are some other strategies that I have used:

-The first strategy besides snow making is timing, much like the snowmakers using the wetbulb temp as their guide, waiting to groom when your wetbulb temp is the most optimal. Its not going to be the best surface but you will be able to maintain it. waiting to groom until 2 or 3 am is sometimes the best option to avoid loss of snow.

-Much like you said about taking snow from other places grabbing pockets from far away may be a way to do it. I occasionally have carried a good mound from the east side of the mountain all the way to the west side, while its not practical its can save you on your main artery runs.

-If there is hardly any snow pull from the edges and then lift your blade and forget its there solely rely on your tiller in float. Not sure if this would have the same effect if you are just running a powder bar.

-The final one is to sit in the lodge once guests start to arrive and look exhausted and hope that guests are sympathetic with conditions and understand you did the best you could. Alright so this one may not be the best but it does have some relevance... Making sure operators know the limit of the machine and current snow depths is important. Understand the terrain under the snow is a big part when grooming with low snow. Knowing where various ledges are or water bars are will help.
Good luck with the class and think snow.
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Re: Low snow year slope prep

Postby cannon405 on 27 Jan 2012, 01:43

Hi Curt - we have been almost totally reliant on snowmaking cover - cannon mt nh - moderate east sized system 4300 gpm - good crew shitty weather this year - unbelievable freeze/thaw cycles no natural to mix hardly ever it seems.
We do winch cat rebuilds and big whale pushouts on the steep stuff - as you are well aware the whole deal is totally weather dependent - i am in the golf biz in the summer and these weather conditions have us concerned about the turf health of our north country golf courses too.
starting to snow when i left the mt tonite but wind was raging - mixed precip to rain back to snow next 36 hrs - what are you gonna do - gotta adapt every day thats all - good luck w/ your course
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Re: Low snow year slope prep

Postby cbender on 02 Feb 2012, 14:29

Thanks for all the replies and ideas. I especially like the "sit and look exhausted" tip. I hope that the guests are still in love with skiing, but have slightly more realistic expectations of surface conditions when we have weather patterns like these. Thankfully, our conditions in central Colorado have improved greatly, however we are still dealing with several early season effects. High on the mountain where we could have done a better job of snow fencing, it is still wind scoured and bare. 20 million extra gallons of water for snowmaking and lots of pushing have our critical zones covered decently. Another unexpected impact has been the eruption at the surface of many more ice flows than I ever remember. Like you guys said, though, ice is better than rock!

Thanks again!
Curt Bender

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