The Greatest (and deepest) Snow on Earth ™
You’ll rarely hear Parkites complain about a big winter and countless, deep, powder days (unless you live in Summit Park and don’t own a snowblower). We all “moved here for the winters and stayed for the summers,” after all. And when four Utah ski resorts are reporting the most snowfall in North America, in January, you know that it’s a winter of epic proportions. But is it possible to have too much of a good thing???
As the first sustained period of high pressure since November settles in upon the Wasatch Back, those of us that work in the snow business are finally getting a little reprieve and a chance to catch our collective breathes. For the hearty individuals who work out in it – the snowplow operators, groomers, lift-mechanics, ski patrollers and the under-appreciated lifties, a winter like this can be extremely challenging. But it’s a challenge that we all embrace, despite shovel-weary arms and tired ski-legs.
The MTF Winter Crew has had its own set of snow-related challenges this winter. The snow gods, Urll and Boreas, chest-bumped and threw down a relentless sage-and-singletrack swallowing snowpack on the Round Valley trails, unlike anything I’ve seen since we started the grooming program 16 years ago. And nearly all these storms have been accompanied by strong winds that have created dense, waist-to-head-high, wave-like drifting conditions that are hard on both the equipment and the operators.
Burying a snowmobile multiple times in three-plus feet of snow can be a backbreaking, sweat-inducing, shovel-fest. And leveling drifts with the cat often requires multiple passes and several hours behind the wheel. Our two grooming snowmobiles and the tracked 4-wheeler have all been out of commission at some point this winter. And la Pantera Roja (our cat) has also been temporarily sidelined with mechanical issues, twice.
Prior to the start of this epic season, our soon-to-be rookie groomers were questioning, why place so many PVC and fiberglass markers out on the trails, late fall? Well, grasshoppers, it’s for rare years like this when one might actually lose the trail. And THIS winter, trails have literally been lost, multiple times. Grooming singletrack is a challenging enough endeavor, but in a year like this, the real challenge has been FINDING the singletrack, and in some cases, even the Nordic.
Remember the Etch-A-Sketch you played with as a kid? Shake it up, your artwork disappears, and you have a blank slate. That pretty much sums up the snow/wind effect on the singletrack this winter. Immediately after a storm passes, we typically do multiple packing laps with the snowmobile, and then a few more with the snowmobile/drag combo. More often than not this year, our efforts have been obliterated, as storm after storm wipes the slate clean.
Because of this year’s non-stop snow-train, part of our daily work plan has included post-storm snowshoeing or skinning the trails (along with a little help from our friends) armed with the TrailForks gps app, to make sure we’re actually “on-trail”. Kinda like leaving breadcrumbs for the snowmobile to follow. All in the name of winter recreation.
So, the next time you’re grinning ear to ear after multiple, bottomless resort laps, a fast and firm fat bike ride, or a skate on perfectly groomed corduroy, be sure to thank those winter warriors who work tirelessly to make it all happen. And DON’T forget the lifties.
Enjoy these bluebird days and soak up some of that rare vitamin D, because February is typically one of the snowiest months of the year…
Have a great one out there!