As early spring tiptoes in, and the slopes still hold a full load of product, grooming habits make the difference.
Grooming guru Jason Harris and mountain manager Mike Cutler, take note of how spring temperatures affect the hills.
“Normally, it takes two groomers about ten hours each to groom 100% of our groomable terrain,” noted Harris . Once the roller coaster cycle of spring temperatures begins, though, grooming habits can change daily.
“Spring conditions mean that the time spent grooming can take about 15 hours if the snow is already soft, and going once over the runs is enough,” Cutler said. But that time stretches to 30 hours if conditions warm up during the day, and then get rock hard at night. “That’s when we have to go over each run a number of times,” he said.
Harris indicated that when it’s really icy, they’ll send out three groomers rather than two, to ensure the silky corduroy that skiers rush to carve up when the lifts open first thing in the morning. And how does that icy surface transform into corduroy? It’s all in the tiller, which acts like a roto-tiller to churn up hard snow surfaces. Corduroy is the finely ridged surface of the snow resulting from that effort.
“Typically, the depth of cut is in the 1-3” range depending on the conditions,” Cutler said. “We’ll go down 3” for (tilling) hard surfaces and about one inch for corn snow and slushy conditions.” Crystal’s winch cat, purchased two years ago, has made spring grooming much easier than it used to be, he added. With the winch cat, groomers are able to pull snow from the base of the slopes back up to the top, thus filling in low spots and keeping the top from getting too icy. (Apparently snow, too, can be recycled).
Spring skiing requires skillful manicuring on the part of our groomers to keep the product fresh. Good grooming habits stretch out the ski season, cold nighttime temperatures mean snow is keeping its solid grip on the slopes, and skiing into April this year means there are still plenty of corduroy mornings ahead!