Boyne Mountain Area Manager, Colin Riviere, takes a seat behind the keyboard to tell us why spring grooming can be challenging:
As the sun continues to climb higher into the sky, we look forward to many weeks of spring skiing at Boyne Mountain. Spring skiing typically revolves around a principle known as, "The Freeze/Thaw Cycle." This is the fluctuation between warm days and cold nights and how it affects the snow. The snow continually freezes, thaws, and freezes day-in and day-out. The phenomena poses huge challenges for our grooming crew, as they try to create an optimal snow surface for skiers/riders on the following day.
Our crew typically has about four hours, after the lifts stop turning at 4:30pm, to groom the snow while the temperature is still above freezing. Grooming slush is easy and it comes out the tiller in perfect corduroy, nice and flat. Once temperatures dip to 32 degrees or below, the snow freezes as it is tilled and comes out behind the machine uneven, causing it to sometimes "smear" rather than bond to itself as it is in varying stages of freezing. Groomers hate it when the snow "turns" like this and its characteristics change. Depending on the weather, this "witching hour" can be right as the sun goes behind the hill, or it can be later in the night. It can slowly rear its ugly head over a 45-minute period or it can turn instantly. Some warm nights it never freezes and stays at 36 degrees all night (not lately, ha). On nights like this, it can be hard for the cat to climb the hill as there is no resistance from the snow for the cleats to dig into.
There are a few tricks to improve the grooming once the temps dip; slow the vehicle down and let the snow spend more time getting chopped in the tiller, reverse the direction of the tiller - cutting teeth as they are more aggressive when run in reverse, or go over the same run twice using a lot of blade up front to turn the snow over before it is tilled. As a result, grooming in the spring takes twice as long and requires a more specific strategy to ensure the ski runs are safe and enjoyable, but also durable.
Come back tomorrow to learn about the grooming techniques used on our most popular runs and Colin will also give some insight as to why we elect to end night skiing when we do...◂ Return to News & Updates