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Would you want to be a groomer operator?

marzNC

Angel Diva
#1
A while ago I started a thread about snowmaking and the folks who make the magic happen when natural snow is not available for whatever reason. A related job is how trails become “groomers” (“piste” in Europe) covered with perfect "corduroy" that is fun for all skiers regardless of ability. What’s a little confusing is that the term "groomer" can refer to groomed trails, the big snowcats used for grooming, or the people who spend hours running the machinery. Of course, the more proper job title is probably “groomer operator.”

While it’s possible to catch a view of a groomer wandering about on a trail, the work is usually done long after the lifts close. Grooming may all night, even during a snowstorm. It’s a seasonal job and most learn on the job.

Would you want to run a groomer? How about take a ride on one?

Here’s an introduction to a man who has been grooming at Mount Snow in Vermont for over 40 years. He has no plans to retire.

https://www.mountsnow.com/our-media/blog/mount-snow/cleon/
 

MilkyWookiee

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#2
Totally would love to ride shotgun a few times! To learn about the mountain and the process from the people who know it best and are the most passionate sounds amazing. Unfortunately most mountains that offer snow cat rides are usually overpriced scenic tours for families with little ones. Hopefully someone corrects me on this!
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#3
Totally would love to ride shotgun a few times! To learn about the mountain and the process from the people who know it best and are the most passionate sounds amazing. Unfortunately most mountains that offer snow cat rides are usually overpriced scenic tours for families with little ones. Hopefully someone corrects me on this!
Thanks to a curious Diva, I've had a chance to ride in a groomer for about an hour. She found out who to call. No charge. The man had just learned that season. In the early fall, he had quit a good paying IT job to follow his dream. Hired on in early season for as a snowmaker as a way to get in the door. Once snowmaking was done (mid-Dec), he got hired as a groomer. Had no idea what he'd be doing in the off-season but he planned to be back for the next season. I had a great time talking with him.

Turns out there are some college level programs for people interested in working in the ski industry. Learning how to operate a groomer is included in the Associate Degree curriculum at Colorado Mountain College.

Screen Shot 2018-11-02 at 10.09.09 AM.png https://coloradomtn.edu/programs/ski-area-operations/
 

alison wong

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#4
Totally would love to ride shotgun a few times! To learn about the mountain and the process from the people who know it best and are the most passionate sounds amazing. Unfortunately most mountains that offer snow cat rides are usually overpriced scenic tours for families with little ones. Hopefully someone corrects me on this!
I have been in a groomer one time. I read an article from Epic Ski few years ago about the life of a night groomer. In the article, the guy (assume it's a male) described his nightly routine, what he likes and dislikes about the job, challenges come w/ the work.... Some of the stuff he wrote is pretty technical and I wasn't able to comprehend fully. Anyway, it prompted my interest to learn more about it. Before I went on ski trips, I would email ski resorts and asked if I can ride with a groomer to learn what more about it. To my surprise, I got one reply back (a reputable one) and was given a contact to the supervisor. He was kind enough to arrange me to ride a groomer w/ one of his staff one night. The ride was free.

The groomer I rode with, he was in his 20's? It turned out he had no prior experience in grooming, but he likes to ski! One key requirement to get hired for the job is (for that resort), you have to like the sport (i.e.skiing). That way, you will know how to groom. Basically, you want to groom the slopes the way how skiers like to ski them. He told me he gets to ski first track once a week with his supervisor. During the run, the sup would give them feedback on the grooming.

This guy had no prior experience in operating heavy machinery, driving large vehicles... but he likes to ski.... I think it is a very neat and smart hiring strategy.

I rode with him for an hour or so, "watched' him groom couple slopes. It was a really neat learning experience. It put things I read from that article into context.

I wonder how many women are in this profession though? Strictly speaking for the working hours, it is a good job esp. if you have kids to take care of. Because you go to work after putting kids to bed, and get home to see kids off to school after work...

Aside from driving a grooming vehicle, not sure how handy one needs to be? E.g. does one need to know how to fix things or do vehicle maintenance work, etc.? Is it a male dominant profession? I did not ask him these questions.

@MilkyWookiee : you can consider doing what I did. Making cold calls (emails) to ski resorts that you will be traveling to. Worst case would be getting no replies. All you need is one reply and a "yes" that's all...

Would you want to run a groomer? How about take a ride on one?
I can't see myself running / driving a groomer because I have A.D.D. (asian driving deficiency).
But taking a ride on one was neat and fun experience. :becky:
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#5
I wonder how many women are in this profession though?
Well, well, well . . . found an article from 2014 about young women who have gotten into the ski industry as groomer operators. Not surprisingly, there is a connection to Colorado Mountain College.

https://www.postindependent.com/news/local/female-ski-groomers-blaze-trails-in-snow-sports-industry/

". . .
OPPORTUNITIES AWAIT WOMEN

The opportunities for women in the snow sports industry have always been there, noted Jason Gusaas, assistant professor in Colorado Mountain College's ski area operations program.

"It's relatively rare, even now, to get women in the snowcats," he said, "but when we get them, they excel."

Paul Rauschke, ski area operations associate professor, heartily agreed.

"At the risk of being called a dinosaur, there are differences between men and women," he said. "Most women 18-25 have a higher aesthetic and attention to detail. Doing a job that requires operating a 300-horsepower palette knife, the women are fantastic."

Kohn laughed, "I've had foremen tell me their dream team would be a team of all women."
"
 

racetiger

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#6
I didn't know you could go for a ride. Id like to check it out just because I like big machines like that and out of curiosity. I drove large trucks in the military and Dad drove a semi for a living
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#8
Not for me, I'd be too tired to ski after grooming all night long..
Depends on the shift. First grooming shift starts as soon as the slopes close. Out west where there isn't night skiing, that means by 3:30 or 4:00. In bed by 1am. Leaves plenty of time for sleep and skiing before the next work shift. :smile:
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#9
I didn't know you could go for a ride. Id like to check it out just because I like big machines like that and out of curiosity. I drove large trucks in the military and Dad drove a semi for a living
I think the driving part is relatively straightforward. Once you get used to going up and down fairly steep pitches. It's learning how to manipulate the grooming attachments that takes practice. Ideally want to accomplish everything in one pass, instead of using extra fuel for multiple passes. Of course very different operating a groomer at a big mountain in the Rockies mostly on natural snow compared to a hill in the Mid-Atlantic that is 100% manmade snow.

My first husband was an owner-operator of a flatbed. Driving a semi probably takes longer to learn than driving a snowcat groomer, especially when it comes to backing up.

For some reason there was a groomer at the Boston Ski Expo. Didn't have anyone with it so couldn't ask questions or get in it. At least when I saw it. But could get up close and take a look at what makes the "corduroy" lines on a well-groomed trail.
 

Kiragirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#10
I rode along with a groomer once, a friend and I 'hitched' a ride after apres ski. It was a blast! We thought he was going to just drop us off but instead took us all the way on his route up and down a long main trail. Besides having a blast, the funny part was that the first thing he said was, "DON'T touch anything!" It was a brand spankin new 1/4 million $ machine and VERY computer techy! I would not want the job, though.
 
#11
Besides having a blast, the funny part was that the first thing he said was, "DON'T touch anything!" It was a brand spankin new 1/4 million $ machine and VERY computer techy! I would not want the job, though.
Guess it's like it used to be when a kid could go into the cockpit of an airplane. :smile:

Definitely helps to be a natural night owl.
 
#12
Nice article about a graduate of Colorado Mountain College who went on to work in grooming all over the place. She's a working mother in Europe now.

Ski area operations alum Karen Gilliot runs snowcats in both hemispheres
By Carrie Click.

"While Karen Bruce Gilliot was growing up in Belle Vernon, a little borough outside Pittsburgh, she skied at Seven Springs. It’s a Pennsylvania ski area that tops out at just less than 3,000 feet, and is about an hour drive from the Bruce family house.

Today, Gilliot lives, skis and works as a snowcat groomer in Les Arcs, a collection of four resorts in the midst of the French Alps. Surrounded by 10,000-foot peaks and with a view of Mont Blanc, Les Arcs hosted speed skiing at the 1992 Winter Olympics. The resort has more than 150 lifts and covers over 260 miles of runs.

So how did the girl from Belle Vernon find her way to the French Alps?
. . ."
 
#14
Video report about riding along in a winch cat at Fernie. Good introduction to see how grooming is a little different when relying on a winch. Good view of the teeth and rubber treads that create corduroy towards the end.

 
#15
PistenBully has come out with an all electric groomer. The company introduced it at the 2019 trade show in Europe for "alpine technologies." The hybrid diesel-electric version PistenBully 600 E+ was launched in 2012.

https://www.the-ski-guru.com/2019/05/15/world-first-0-emissions-snow-groomer-launched-pistenbully/
" . . .
For the first PistenBully 100 E, the energy capacity of the battery is 126 kWh with a rated voltage of 400V. The charging time is of particular interest. At 5 hours, the SoC (State of Charge) is at 75%. After 6.5 hours, the battery is completely charged. In purely mathematical terms, this provides an average driving time of 2.5 to 3 hours.
. . ."
 

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