Snow Grooming - September 2016

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September 2016 | Volume 3 | No. 4


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September 2016 | Vol 3. | No. 4

5 6 10 15 19 23

Letter from the Editor Do you like change?

Off-Season Maintenance Properly storing, cleaning and maintaining equipment pays off in the long run

Northern Trails Cross country skiing is a favorite pastime in Canada’s Yukon territory. The popularity of the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club is proof of that.

Raising the Bar A remote controlled tool carrier offered by Alamo Industrial could make the work of pre-season brush clearing on trails faster and safer

6 10

A New Way to Tube A concept known as “grass tubing” may be just the thing for ski resorts looking for different ways to boost off-season revenue

With Preparation Comes Success Pre-season work pays off for Perfect North Slopes


September 2016 | Volume 3 | No. 4.

On the Cover


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Once the snow melts away for the summer, there is still more to be done in order to best prepare ourselves for the next snow season. In this issue’s cover story, read about how to properly store, clean and maintain your dedicated snow grooming equipment. Avoiding certain steps could mean costly repairs in your future. That story starts on page 6. SNOW GROOMING



September 2016 |


September 2016 | Vol 3. | No. 4

Published by

140 Broadway, 46th Floor New York, NY 10005 Toll-free Phone: 866-953-2189 Toll-free Fax: 877-565-8557 President & Publisher, Jeff Lester EDITORIAL Editorial Director, Jill Harris Editorial Assistant, Andrew Harris ADVERTISING Sales Manager, Sharon Komoski Quinn Bogusky, Brian Saunders DESIGN & LAYOUT Art Director, Myles O’Reilly John Lyttle, Gayl Punzalan DISTRIBUTION Nikki Manalo © 2016 Lester Publications, LLC All rights reserved. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced by any means, in whole or in part, without the prior written consent of the publisher.

Do you like change?


re you a person who likes change? We hope that you can roll with it, because we have some big changes in store for Snow Grooming in 2017. The first, and biggest, change is a brand new name for the magazine. While we like Snow Grooming, we’ve found it doesn’t necessary encompass the entire gamut of snow operations. We want the pages to reflect all the components of effective snow operations – from off-season trail maintenance, to signage, to staffing, to grooming and everything in between. The all-new SnowOps magazine will debut in 2017, and we hope that you enjoy the revised format that better addresses resort and trail operations. The second change is that instead of five issues, we’re moving to three issues per season. The reason is that we don’t want to inundate readers with too many issues when they’re busy in the snow, and limiting frequency is going

to allow us to bring more concentrated, fine-tuned articles to you, giving you the best information about snow operations that you need to know. Starting in 2017, you’ll see SnowOps magazine in January, April and September. The annual buyers’ guide will be available in the April issue. More information on the impending changes will be in the November 2016 issue of Snow Grooming. I hope that you’re as excited about the new SnowOps magazine as we are! For now, stay safe and busy as snow season is beginning. Happy reading,

Jill Harris 866-953-2182

Publication Mail Agreement #40606022. Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: 701 Henry Ave., Winnipeg, MB  R3E 1T9

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors and/or editorial sources contained in Snow Grooming magazine are those of the respective parties and do not necessarily represent the opinion of the publisher. Printed in Canada. Please recycle where facilities exist.



Off-Season Maintenance

“I sometimes go into shops and see they’re doing offseason maintenance on a machine but it’s still so dirty they can barely see what’s going on. Clean it off first so you can see a lot better.” –R od Elwell, National Technical Service Manager, Kässbohrer All Terrain Vehicles


September 2016 |


Properly storing, cleaning and maintaining equipment pays off in the long run By Jim Timlick


he summer sun is shining bright, you have a cool beverage in hand and you’re enjoying some well-deserved downtime with friends and family. The last thing on your mind is pre-season maintenance of your snow grooming machines.

While no one is likely to begrudge you enjoying some R&R after another hectic winter, one maintenance expert says it’s never too early to start thinking about getting your groomers ready for the upcoming snow season. “Some ski areas will park [their machine] after the season, the weeds grow up through it and in November they hope to go out and get it started,” said Rod Elwell with a laugh. Elwell is national technical service manager for Kässbohrer All Terrain Vehicles, manufacturers of the PistenBully line of snow grooming vehicles. He says it’s vitally important for ski hills and snowmobile clubs to take a proactive

approach when it comes to off-season maintenance of their groomers. “It’s obviously an important thing for the longevity of your machine, to make it more reliable for the next season,” he said. “The routine maintenance that you do is very important in terms of how reliable your machine is in the future instead of just waiting for something to break.” Elwell says club operators should actually start thinking about pre-season maintenance as soon as the current season ends. One of the first things they should do, he says, is to remove the tracks from their grooming machines and store them somewhere out of the sun. Heat and UV rays can cause significant damage to rubber belts if they are left on a machine throughout the summer. “You can get a small ski area that only put a thousand hours on in five years and has only a fraction of the hours [of

PistenBully 400 opened for servicing




Proper off-season maintenance and storage will result in an easier snow season

a bigger operation] but their belts are completely rotted off because they left them tracked all year and never took them out of the sun,” said Elwell, adding the off-season is also an ideal time to perform a complete track inspection. “And with elevation and the fact the sun can get more intense [in those areas], you definitely can get belts that have to be prematurely replaced much sooner than if you stored them properly.” Another item that should be at the top of every club or organization’s to-do



list is changing the oil and oil filter in their grooming machines when the season concludes. Elwell says he likes to see crews change the oil and filter as soon as spring arrives. “Don’t wait until September, when you would normally do it,” he said. “It’s better for the engine to sit with new oil in it rather than the old.” While changing a machine’s air filter should be a priority, Elwell cautions that it’s usually best to wait until just before the start of a new season. Because snowcats are often left parked in a field during the off-season, they can be an ideal place for mice and other critters to build nests. By waiting until the fall, you reduce the chances of unwanted pests returning for a second round of nest building, he says. Elwell urges snow operations to clean their groomers prior to doing any offseason inspections. “I sometimes go into shops and see they’re doing off-season maintenance on a machine but it’s still so dirty they can barely see what’s going on,” he said. “Clean it off first so you can see a lot bet-


ter, and you can then see if a bolt’s loose or there’s a leak or something.” Ensuring a grooming machine’s suspension system is working properly is another important part of an effective off-season maintenance program, according to Elwell. Doing so can ensure there is no undue wear and tear on sprockets or tires of the track system. Spring or summer is also an ideal time to check that a machine’s pressures are correct. Because virtually all groomers are hydrostatic drive machines, setting the pressures is akin to performing a tune-up on an automobile and ensures the engine is operating at peak efficiency. Adjusting the valve lash (the mechanical clearance in the engine’s valve train) is an often overlooked part of pre-season maintenance for snow groomers. Doing so helps to ensure your groomer runs properly during the season and starts strong in cold weather, says Elwell. Another item that is sometimes overlooked when it comes to pre-season maintenance is the tiller. Elwell suggests that maintenance crews inspect

R E A D Y ?


cutter bars to ensure there are no bent teeth. Bent or dull teeth chew up less snow and cause a groomer to consume more fuel to compensate for the damaged choppers. The heart of any groomer is its battery. Without it, that piece of equipment is useless. Elwell recommends leaving the battery in the machine and scheduling a rotation, in which machines are fired up every couple of weeks and left to run for about 20 minutes to ensure the battery is operational and fully charged. Elwell says PistenBully and most snow groomer manufactures provide buyers with a service list that specifies when certain service jobs need to be performed. He says following those guidelines not only helps to prevent unnecessary breakdowns but can also save snow operations thousands of dollars in repairs. “If you decide you’re going to skip doing the wheel bearings this year and you happen to have one fail, now instead of the $3 worth of grease you needed to re-grease it correctly…you

Photos courtesy of Kässbohrer All Terrain Vehicles


Ready for inspection

will be looking at an expensive repair – the bearings, the spindle, the hubs, the wheels,” he said. The off-season is also an ideal time to shop around for a new groomer if the time has come to replace part of your aging fleet. PistenBully plans to demo the newest generation of its popular PB

100 this coming season. The PistenBully 100 4F has 253 hp (up from 197 hp on the older model) and meets the latest Tier 4 final emission standards. It features a new workstation concept with an integrated operating concept, intuitive controls and advanced iTerminal with large display.


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Northern Trails Cross country skiing is a favorite pastime in Canada’s Yukon territory. The popularity of the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club is proof of that. By Mark Halsall


September 2016 |



magine cross country skiing on secluded wilderness trails under the majestic Northern Lights. It’s something skiers in Canada’s Yukon Territory get to experience regularly. Many of them belong to the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club, located in Yukon’s capital and largest city. The winter nights are long and can be bonechilling when you’re just a few hundred miles south of the Arctic Circle, but that doesn’t prevent people from going out and cross country skiing a lot. The Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club has been around for 30 years and boasts 1,300 members – not bad when you consider the city’s population is just 25,000. “It’s very popular,” said Jan Polivka, operations manager at the club. “We try to keep our trails at the highest level all winter, and the facilities are amazing. I think that’s why we have so many members.” The club operates the Nordic Ski Centre, which offers a great indoor facility and more than 50 miles of groomed

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trails (including some lit trails) for classic and skate skiing and snowshoeing. There’s also an additional 12 miles of ungroomed single track for snowshoeing and ski touring. The trails are open year-round and are popular in the summer for mountain biking, hiking and walking. The Nordic Ski Centre is highly regarded, regularly ranking high in lists of top Canadian cross country ski destinations. The Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club hosted the Canadian National Cross Country Ski Championships in 2016 and another in the past, and it also held an FIS Cross Country World Cup event in 1981. One of the advantages of being so far north is a long cross country ski season. In Whitehorse, this typically starts at the beginning of November and can run into late March or mid-April, depending on snow conditions and the weather. Polivka, one of two full-time staff members at the club, says there’s usually lots to do to prepare the trails during the off-season.

“It’s mainly maintenance. We cut the grass with the tractor and the mower, and then we remove some fallen trees and stuff like that,” he said. “We do some leveling of trails and widening when we need it. For example, for the cross country ski nationals this year we had to widen a whole bunch of trails.” In winters, Polivka is kept busy grooming the trails and overseeing equipment repairs and maintenance. He says the club has a good contingent of 15 dedicated volunteers who help out with snow grooming. The lynchpin of the club’s snow grooming operation is a PistenBully 100 that was purchased in 2012, replacing an older PistenBully. However, it can’t be used on the trails until there’s sufficient snow (usually four inches or more), which means most years the snowcat isn’t utilized until sometime in December. During low snow seasons (like the last couple of winters in Whitehorse), this can stretch until the Christmas break.




Photos courtesy of Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club

The club’s Alpine IIs

Bearcat with the six-food-wide roller

For this reason, the club maintains a number of different snowmobiles and various types of snow grooming equipment for use early in the season and throughout the winter. The snowmobile fleet consists of: • Two Alpine Sherpa doubletrack, four-stroke snowmobiles • Two Arctic Cat Bearcat singletrack, four-stroke snowmobiles • Two older Ski-Doo Alpine II double-track, two-stroke snowmobiles The implements include a six-footwide roller used at the beginning of the season when there’s not enough

A trail groomed by the club’s PistenBully machine

snow to set tracks. It also does a good job of packing significant snowfalls. Two TiddTechs – large drags capable of digging up hardened snow, churning it up and mixing in new snow, then leveling the trail surface and setting tracks and skate lanes, all in one pass – are utilized throughout the winter. “We always use the TiddTech behind the Sherpas because they’re the biggest, strongest snowmobiles, and basically that’s the best way to do it,” said Polivka. There are also a number of grader/ renovators, 4.5-foot wide implements that are used to churn up old snow,

mix in new snow, level the trail surface and prepare a skate lane. They’re mostly used in early season and on narrow trails throughout the winter. The grader/renovators do a good job in most conditions but are considered less effective when there’s not much snow or if it’s hard packed. Also used by the club are a pair of JACA tracksetters, which are operated with an electronic piston that can raise and lower the tracksetter while the implement is being towed along the trail. This enables the operators to break the tracks at junctions and sharp turns and on steep down slopes.

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September 2016 |


A couple of the club’s volunteers hard at work

In terms of maintenance, Polivka says there are mechanics associated with the club who take care of regular maintenance and make repairs to snowmobiles when needed, although in most cases replacement parts need to be flown in. They can also work on the PistenBully when necessary. “With the PistenBully, there’s a dealer in Calgary so they can ship the parts really fast,” said Polivka. “We’ve had a PistenBully for a long time now; I believe this is our third or even fourth one. As far as I remember, we never really had huge issues that we couldn’t deal with. Also, every four years we have a certified mechanic from the

dealership fly up here and do the major overhaul service.” Polivka says the machine is ideally suited for one the stiffest challenges faced by the club – namely, Whitehorse weather, which can produce extremely hard snow. “We are dealing with very hard [snow] conditions, especially in the spring when it can drop from plus 12 degrees Celsius to minus 15 degrees Celsius (about 55 degrees Fahrenheit to 5 degrees Fahrenheit) in one day,” he said. “The snow is so hard that even with the grader or the TiddTechs, it’s just not possible to groom. Then the PistenBully is the only machine we

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have which can actually break the snow and set the tracks.”

“We try to keep our trails at the highest level all winter, and the facilities are amazing. I think that’s why we have so many members.” – Jan Polivka, Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club

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A remote controlled tool carrier offered by Alamo Industrial could make the work of pre-season brush clearing on trails faster and safer By Mark Halsall


learing thick grass and tangled brush from trails in preparation for the cross country skiing or snowmobile season is not only tough work, it can be time-consuming and sometimes dangerous. Now, there’s a new device on the market that’s purported to make brush clearing faster and safer – a remote controlled tool carrier called the

TRAXX RF that can hack down vegetation in the toughest terrain, even on slopes up to 60 degrees. The TRAXX RF is offered by Alamo Industrial, a subsidiary of the Alamo Group Inc. that’s based in Seguin, Texas. Founded in 1969, the company has been supplying mowers to the governmental, agricultural and commercial turf markets for decades. Now Alamo Industrial’s line of tractor-mounted

mowers, brush-cutters and related equipment is being used by ski resorts as well as snowmobile clubs and cross country ski operations. Mary Andrews, customer support manager for Alamo Industrial, says the company’s remote control mower was originally developed to serve governmental customer needs as a safer device for workers clearing the sides of highways and retention and deSNOW GROOMING


Photos courtesy of Alamo Industrial


tention ponds. The product has been widely used in the European snow market for the last few years. “We just started brainstorming and thinking about what are all the other types of areas this product could go

in,” she said, and the U.S. snow sports industry seemed like a natural fit. According to Andrews, there’s been a lot of interest among some ski resorts and parks about adding a machine like the TRAXX RF to their fleets

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of slope and trail maintenance equipment. The TRAXX RF works well for trail clearing because it’s maneuverable, says Andrew. She adds because it can move around quickly and can squeeze into confined spaces, much less time

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COMPANY PROFILE is required than it would take to do the job with a conventional tractor/ mower set-up. TRAXX RF mowers are operated by joysticks with intuitive, fingertip controls, and operators can stand up to 1,000 feet away if necessary to minimize the risk of flying debris. Because it’s equipped with rubber tracks with steel cleats and spikes and has a low center of gravity, the unit can safely tackle slopes up to 60 degrees. “This tool carrier is a versatile piece of equipment that can be easily adapted to the job you need to do because of the various heads that can be attached,” said Andrews. The TRAXX RF comes with the following head options: • 51-inch heavy duty cutting head for brush and saplings • 51-inch heavy duty cutting head for grass and brush • Forestry cutting head • Hydraulic angle blade • Snow blower • Bucket

“We just started brainstorming and thinking about what are all the other types of areas this product could go in.” – Mary Andrews, Alamo Industrial

• •

Rear hitch Stump grinder

Many equipment offerings In addition to the TRAXX RF remote control mower, Alamo Industrial carries a wide range of mowing and brush clearing equipment that can be mounted on tractors and used to prepare ski slopes and clear trails during the off-season. According to Andrews, a flail cutting head attached to a three-point hitch at the back of a tractor is the most popular option for mowing downhill slopes, while rotary cutting heads at-

tached to a boom arm on a tractor are the top choice for trail clearing purposes. “Most of the time they’ll get the boom arm and then buy several heads depending on what they’re going to be cutting,” said Andrews. Alamo Industrial’s boom arms are offered as a choice of front, mid and rear mounts, and come in an assortment of product lines. The choices for cutting heads are similarly diverse, with a wide range of product lines available for both rotary and flail heads. Andrews says the BuzzBar brush cutter is a popular choice for trail


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clearing. The cutting head with large, 26-inch circular steel blades can slice through material up to four inches in diameter. Andrews also points to Alamo Industrial’s Maverick boom mower as a popular choice with ski resort and trail operators. With its innovative design and new technology features that include trouble-shooting/moni-

toring devices, the equipment clears brush efficiently and effectively. According to Andrews, it’s Alamo Industrial’s commitment to product improvement that’s a major driver of the company’s success. “We’re definitely a leader in the innovation of brush mowing equipment,” said Andrews, pointing to the user-friendly joystick controls on Alamo Industrial’s boom mow-

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September 2016 |

ers as one example. Coming up with unique hydraulic systems is another example. “We have removed the hydraulics system that powers our mowers from going through the tractor,” she said. “It totally stands on its own, so you don’t have that issue when you have a problem and are trying to figure out where it is – is it in the tractor or is it in the equipment attached to it?”


A New Way to Tube A concept known as “grass tubing” may be just the thing for ski resorts looking for different ways to boost off-season revenue By Mark Halsall Some resorts already have summer tubing operations, which offer the experience of riding regular inner tubes (typically, the same ones used in winter tubing) down a slope covered with a plastic mat or in a channel lined with artificial snow matting. Under Schaer’s system, there are no mats and the wheeled tubes are steerable and come equipped with brakes. As a result, riders aren’t limited to going straight downhill; they’re able to turn and even weave down slopes, slalom-style. According to Schaer, this creates a new sport with potential for tube racing. Schaer says grass tubing is not only a whole lot of fun, it could also be a real bonanza for ski resorts thirsting for additional revenue opportunities in the off-season.

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ith shortening ski seasons in many areas due to global warming, resorts throughout North America are looking into ways to generate more cash in the summer. Hans Schaer says he has the answer, with a new idea that’s right for the times. The owner of Harusch Lifts describes his concept as “grass tubing.” He’s designed a system where inner tubes equipped with wheels can be ridden down grassy slopes on a wellgroomed ski run.




“I’m hoping that in a very short time, this idea will catch on with a lot of people. We’re setting up for this in a big way so we’re ready for when that happens.” – Hans Schaer, Harusch Lifts “I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “I’m hoping that in a very short time, this idea will catch on with a lot of people. We’re setting up for this in a big way so we’re ready for when that happens.” Schaer got into the business of building ski lifts in 1968. He still makes and sells lift systems, and he’s also been involved in a wide array of ventures related to the ski industry over the years, including winter tubing and building over-the-snow vehicles. Grass tubing is his latest project, which he says is in the pre-production phase. When he’s not busy pitching his grass tubing system and drumming up sales, Schaer and his small staff are hard at working up inventory at his manufacturing shop in Squamish, B.C.

Schaer’s grass tubing system includes a device that can be attached to the back of snowcats to mow and groom the grass tubing tracks, as well as portable and/or installed fixed lift systems for transporting the tubes and riders back uphill.

Kool Kat Schaer has an inventive mind and says he’s always had lots of industrial designs and projects on the go. One of them was a unique snow grooming vehicle called the Kool Kat, which he helped develop in the late 1970s. The Kool Kat was a collaboration between Schaer’s company and Miller Weeder Corp., an agricultural equipment firm based in Stratton, Nebraska.



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According to Schaer, Miller Weeder Corp. was in the business of building combines and other agricultural machinery but they were looking for a way to keep workers busy during the slow winter season. The Kool Kat was one of the things they came up with. The rugged vehicle came with a combine-like cab and was larger and more powerful than most snowcats of its day.

The Kool Kat sported a 250-horsepower John Deere diesel engine, five-foot-wide tracks, and “a 13-foot-wide blade that could tackle anything. It was big, I tell you,” said Schaer. “At that time, it was the biggest snowcat on the market.” Miller Weeder Corp. built the body and Schaer’s company added custom-made attachments, some of which were Schaer’s designs that were clearly ahead of their time.

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“I designed what they would call a 12-way blade now,” he said. Schaer’s plow blade had adjustable wings and was a significant improvement on the standard snowcat blade back then, which was essentially a rectangular blade that tilted left or right, he says. Schaer also invented an adjustable snow grooming attachment for the Kool Kat that when needed could extend up to 30 feet wide when going downhill, and retract to 13 feet when

going uphill. Schaer calls it the one of the most productive snow compactors of the time. Production of the Kool Kat ended in the early 1980s but Schaer is pretty sure there are still a few being used. “There’s still probably some around. When I can put in the time and effort, I’m going to see if I can find and buy one for memory’s sake. I still have some plows and attachments in the yard,” he said.



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With Preparation Comes Success Pre-season work pays off for Perfect North Slopes By Kristy Rydz in June and again in September. In 2016, for the first time, they were the venue for the Indiana Spartan Race, held annually in July. Keeping all its snow-covered offerings in top shape as well as running the site and equipment as efficiently as possible in every season has been Boonie Neff ’s job as mountain manager for the past 12 years. Starting at Perfect North Slopes 21 years ago as a lift attendant, Neff hasn’t looked back since. He currently oversees of a team of 14 full-time outdoor operations staff that works in two 12-hour shifts during the season. Four to six seasonal employees come back each year to lend a hand with the snowmaking and grooming duties after spending the summer months either farming or working in their own landscaping businesses. “If it wasn’t for the team that we have, [Perfect North Slopes] would not run as smoothly as it does,” said Neff. The full-time team members take on management duties of the lifts, tubing runs, terrain parks, among others areas during the season, including looking after parttime staff and pitching in for other areas of the business to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible for their clientele.

Photos courtesy of Perfect North Slopes


t Perfect North Slopes, perfect has always been more than just a catchy marketing tool – it’s the founding family’s name and the experience they aim to give all their visitors, no matter when they hit the slopes. The resort was opened in Lawrenceburg, Indiana in 1980 by the Perfect family – Clyde, a bricklayer, his wife, Ella Mae, and their five adult children – after buying the farm property and deciding to test out the idea of a ski hill. Luckily, it worked. Thirty-six years after starting with only two runs, three generations of the Perfect family are still operating the ski area, and the growth has been incredible. Today, the resort boasts 23 trails, five chair lifts, four magic carpets, two terrain parks and 23 tubing lanes and is visited by, on average, 200,000 skiers and snowboarders and 80,000 tubers per season, which usually opens around U.S. Thanksgiving and wraps up in March each year. The resort, which employs over 50 full-time staff members and over 1,000 seasonal employees, is even buzzing in the off-season – Perfect North Slopes has started to run Mud-Stash, a four-mile walk/ run course with 50-plus obstacles such as a swinging bridge, wall rappels and a lily pad water crossing, twice a year, once




“ A lot of ski areas have just groomers, just snow makers – but all of our snow makers and groomers are hill managers as well.” – Boonie Neff, Perfect North Slopes


September 2016 |

RESORT PROFILE “The guys that run the cats are also the snow makers. A lot of ski areas have just groomers, just snow makers – but all of our snow makers and groomers are hill managers as well,” said Neff. “They all share the same characteristics and they can do it all. If you make snow here, you end up getting in a snow cat before the season is over.” With nine snow cats in total, Perfect North Slopes has the largest fleet per acre of any ski area in the U.S. to cope with the often-unpredictable Midwestern weather patterns. They utilize a 2015 Park PistenBully, two 2013 Park PistenBullys, one 2003 Winch Cat 300 and two 2000 300 PistenBullys to keep up with the grooming demands created by their 240 tower-mounted snow guns, a mixture of super and regular SMI Polecats that can pump approximately 12,000 gallons per minute. They also use a Formatic to groom the tubing runs and a 200 PistenBully with an aerial man bucket for snow gun and lift maintenance. Additionally, Perfect North Slopes uses a 280 PistenBully to clear the snow in their massive parking lot that includes 1,817 paved parking spots, 30 paved bus spots plus an additional 400 overflow gravel spots. Ensuring all of that machinery is ready and able to make it through the usual 100-day season is a process that starts the day the runs close each spring. “When we shut down in March, we will disassemble the tracks on the snow cats, take the tillers and blades off and then we go over them and make a list of anything we see that’s wrong or will need attention,” said Neff. “Throughout

the summer, we call them our rainy-day projects; we will bring a cat into a service bay and the guys will go over it.” Detailing, cleaning, replacing needed tires, belts, bearing and hoses in addition to track and suspension work are all regular items on the annual to-do lists. At the same time, the hill is kept mowed all summer and there’s a similar snow gun maintenance checklist that the crew works through in addition to rebuilding one run each off-season. When it comes to preparing the hill itself, Neff ’s team usually gets underway literally stockpiling snow while the temperature permits in early November. “You start making snow early in the season and you let it pile up. We call them ‘whales’ and once we let them cure for a

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day or two, we see if we can ‘connect the dots,’ as we call it,” he said. “Start at the bottom of the hill and try to make your way to the top. Snow making is going on when it’s cold and we’re grooming while we’re doing that until we open.” Once into the swing of the season, the hill primarily runs four machines at a time, in various combinations. “If we aren’t making snow, and even if we are, every night at least two snow cats will go out and by six in the morning, there will be four or five guys out grooming, fixing around the chairlifts, cleaning up any fresh snow, packing stuff in,” said Neff. “We always have groomed runs every day, even if we make snow all night. We always have at least three runs off the top that are completely corduroyed.” Two to three of the more experienced drivers take care of building and maintaining the terrain parks, as they require a specialized touch in building safe features. Similarly, two long-time staff members go over the tubing runs daily, which requires using the Formatic and precise techniques to create lanes with no flaws, ensuring the safety of tubers and keeping them travelling as straight as possible. For an Indiana winter sport destination, weather is Perfect North Slopes’ biggest challenge. “When it’s really cold on a Friday and we’re open until 1 a.m. and we need to have the hill fully ready again for 9 a.m. and we’re also making snow – for us, the challenge is just trying to get over the whole hill so the customers have a good product when it’s time to open the next morning,” said Neff. The ups and downs of the often-changing temperature sometimes means closing runs during the day to groom, while most other maintenance is done overnight. “We have to try to get the 4 p.m. people when they get off work the same conditions that the 9 a.m. people had this morning,” said Neff. But despite the year-round obstacles, there’s no place else Neff would rather be. “I love working for the family. The Perfect family goes above and beyond for their employees. And it’s fun – I like being outdoors. You never know what you’re going to do that day, it’s always something different,” he said.

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September 2016 |

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