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That’s Not the Winter We Wanted

It was the end of January, I was in the parking lot at Heavenly’s California base taking my ski boots off when this couple in street clothes stops these two skiers who have obviously also just finished their day of skiing. “Hey we are going up tomorrow, how’s the snow up there?” Obviously a couple of whiners, they start going off. “Well they are charging full price and the place isn’t even all open and it’s just all icy, this place is such a rip off.”

Now I’m not normally one to defend a non locally owned mega giant corporation ski resort, but it is in my front yard, I do play there a lot, and I had just had a truly great day there. I had to put down my beer, throw my shoes on and run over to the street clothes couple who were just standing there looking at each other. Hi I just overheard you ask the obviously wrong wankers about their day. Yes they are charging full price, no they aren’t fully open and you have to stick to mainly to the groomed runs, but I have been up there the last two days and I don’t remember any more than a couple of scraped off patches of ice. The runs are actually really good considering there have been no storms! It almost looked like they started breathing again. “Hey thanks, we knew there wasn’t much snow here but we only get to do this once a year.” They are laying down a new layer of snow on several runs every night and if you can get to those runs it is amazingly good, and yeah that has got to be pretty expensive snow up there so I guess they are going to get their lift ticket price. Someone needs to give those two whiners over there a knuckle to the forehead but I have a cold beer to finish. Have a great time!

Back at my partially finished Racer Five beer, I start to drift off to the winter of ‘76/’77. It was a year very much like this one, so far. That year ended with a snow pack of 34 inches, 182 inches total snowfall! Definitely one for the record books. Heavenly’s snowmaking consisted of blowing a huge mound of hard nasty “snow” and then pushing it around where it was needed. I can so vividly remember crews shoveling snow back up onto Ridge Run from off the sides. Because of this the run was about half the width it is now. But we were up there playing on it.

It was a particularly brutal and dry year. Heavenly didn’t even open until the middle of January, they did some of what I would prefer to call, snow mining, and then had to close, I think it was in March. The toughest part about that season was that we didn’t even have mountain bikes to pick up the down times. Now that really makes it sound like it was a long time ago. But it really wasn’t, right?

The street clothes couple are gone, so is my beer. Back to the day today and just how perfect the snow they are making up there can really be. I am always amazed at how nice that new layer of snow is for the first 48 hours or so. The best is what we like to call skiing under the guns. This means the daytime temperatures are low enough that they are blowing snow while the mountain is open, it’s like skiing in a snowstorm with blue skies. Of course it sounds like you are skiing at an airport, but who cares, you’re skiing! Then past that we all know how quickly it can degrade into some pretty compacted, hard scraped off “yikes” kind of snow. But that is where the groomers come in to fluff things back up again.

When you think about this process of laying a few inches of fresh snow down, from getting the water up to the mountain, then to the individual guns (without freezing), some of the guns require compressed air, and some need electricity. As I understand it there are some that are on an automated system, they just kick on when temperature and humidity are right. Most though require the guys out there working them.

I find the whole thing to be an amazing piece of technology that I would love to learn more about, hint, hint, if any of you snowmakers are reading this. We could do another article about what really goes on up there all night long while Mother Nature is off on vacation somewhere else and the boys in black are out there doing her job for her. Don’t forget to thank them for that! And we can’t forget the project they did to open Skyline Trail. Making a huge mound of snow at the base of Sky Chair, shoveling it into buckets on the chairs, moving that all to the top where it was then pushed, what a mile or so out that trail to get it open! Just for us, awesome.

Meanwhile yes, we stare longingly into the barely snow covered forests and bowls and chutes. We check the Farmer’s Almanac, Tahoe Weather Discussion, The Storm king, latest radar images, the squirrels tails, Uncle Joe’s trick knee, anything and everything once twice daily, looking for a sign that the big blue H off the coast out there might move away and let some of those classic Sierra storms pound us some day! Please!

 

Enjoy Earth

GB

It was the end of January, I was in the parking lot at Heavenly’s California base taking my ski boots off when this couple in street clothes stops these two skiers who have obviously also just finished their day of skiing. “Hey we are going up tomorrow, how’s the snow up there?” Obviously a couple of whiners, they start going off. “Well they are charging full price and the place isn’t even all open and it’s just all icy, this place is such a rip off.”

Now I’m not normally one to defend a non locally owned mega giant corporation ski resort, but it is in my front yard, I do play there a lot, and I had just had a truly great day there. I had to put down my beer, throw my shoes on and run over to the street clothes couple who were just standing there looking at each other. Hi I just overheard you ask the obviously wrong wankers about their day. Yes they are charging full price, no they aren’t fully open and you have to stick to mainly to the groomed runs, but I have been up there the last two days and I don’t remember any more than a couple of scraped off patches of ice. The runs are actually really good considering there have been no storms! It almost looked like they started breathing again. “Hey thanks, we knew there wasn’t much snow here but we only get to do this once a year.” They are laying down a new layer of snow on several runs every night and if you can get to those runs it is amazingly good, and yeah that has got to be pretty expensive snow up there so I guess they are going to get their lift ticket price. Someone needs to give those two whiners over there a knuckle to the forehead but I have a cold beer to finish. Have a great time!

Back at my partially finished Racer Five beer, I start to drift off to the winter of ‘76/’77. It was a year very much like this one, so far. That year ended with a snow pack of 34 inches, 182 inches total snowfall! Definitely one for the record books. Heavenly’s snowmaking consisted of blowing a huge mound of hard nasty “snow” and then pushing it around where it was needed. I can so vividly remember crews shoveling snow back up onto Ridge Run from off the sides. Because of this the run was about half the width it is now. But we were up there playing on it.

It was a particularly brutal and dry year. Heavenly didn’t even open until the middle of January, they did some of what I would prefer to call, snow mining, and then had to close, I think it was in March. The toughest part about that season was that we didn’t even have mountain bikes to pick up the down times. Now that really makes it sound like it was a long time ago. But it really wasn’t, right?

The street clothes couple are gone, so is my beer. Back to the day today and just how perfect the snow they are making up there can really be. I am always amazed at how nice that new layer of snow is for the first 48 hours or so. The best is what we like to call skiing under the guns. This means the daytime temperatures are low enough that they are blowing snow while the mountain is open, it’s like skiing in a snowstorm with blue skies. Of course it sounds like you are skiing at an airport, but who cares, you’re skiing! Then past that we all know how quickly it can degrade into some pretty compacted, hard scraped off “yikes” kind of snow. But that is where the groomers come in to fluff things back up again.

When you think about this process of laying a few inches of fresh snow down, from getting the water up to the mountain, then to the individual guns (without freezing), some of the guns require compressed air, and some need electricity. As I understand it there are some that are on an automated system, they just kick on when temperature and humidity are right. Most though require the guys out there working them.

I find the whole thing to be an amazing piece of technology that I would love to learn more about, hint, hint, if any of you snowmakers are reading this. We could do another article about what really goes on up there all night long while Mother Nature is off on vacation somewhere else and the boys in black are out there doing her job for her. Don’t forget to thank them for that! And we can’t forget the project they did to open Skyline Trail. Making a huge mound of snow at the base of Sky Chair, shoveling it into buckets on the chairs, moving that all to the top where it was then pushed, what a mile or so out that trail to get it open! Just for us, awesome.

Meanwhile yes, we stare longingly into the barely snow covered forests and bowls and chutes. We check the Farmer’s Almanac, Tahoe Weather Discussion, The Storm king, latest radar images, the squirrels tails, Uncle Joe’s trick knee, anything and everything once twice daily, looking for a sign that the big blue H off the coast out there might move away and let some of those classic Sierra storms pound us some day! Please!

 

Enjoy Earth

GB

 

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