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Life of a Snow Groomer

Long hours, sleepless nights, and a rhythm to all its madness ... welcome to grooming

Last month, we gave you an inside look at Holiday Valley’s snowmaking crew. Our next feature showcases another integral part of keeping skiers and snowboarders happy - the groomers. 

Besides powder, there is no better feeling than ripping through fresh corduroy when the resort starts spinning its lifts in the morning. Whether it’s fresh snow or manmade, the groomers couple machine with execution to deliver that perfect manicure on the hill. Much like the snowmakers, grooming is a job that requires long nights on the front lines. 

Ed Imhoff, head of vehicle maintenance and snow grooming, has been at Holiday Valley for 10 seasons. Between himself and the nine others on his crew, they keep the snow fresh and the trails even using their six Pisten Bully 600 snowcats. 

“Typically, the night starts at around 10pm, because we need to wait until the resort closes to send the cats out,” Imhoff said. “We groom for 10 hours, and by 8am, our job is done and the resort will open. Sending five of the cats out ensures that every slope that needs to be groomed will be.” 

Trails that have had snowmaking always get priority over others, so the groomers and snowmakers work in unison. Each Pisten Bully is driven by one groomer, and the 15,000-pound, 480 HP beasts take long top-to-bottom passes on each run. 

“They are sweet machines,” Imhoff said. “The windshield wipers and windows are heated in case we’re grooming trails where the snowmaking guns are on. The blades are 16-feet wide, which allows us to cover a lot of area in one pass. There are designated routes that we use on each run - so grooming on Mardi Gras will be a bit different than, say, Cindy’s.” 

Of the six Pisten Bullys, two are unique: one is a ‘winch cat’ and the other a ‘park cat.’ The winch is used to groom the steeper trails, such as Falcon, the Wall, etc., while the park cat does exactly what the name implies - the terrain parks. 

“As a skier skies downhill, it takes the snow that was at the top and pushes it to the bottom. We use the winch to pull the snow back up to the top, which maintains the vertical. If we constantly groomed downhill, you’d take a steep and make it less such. Chris (Perks) is our park builder/groomer, and he uses the park cat to push snow into piles and then cut it into jumps or entries for rails and other features.” 

The groomers have a rhythm in how they maintain the snow. If they were to continually lap the lift house at the top and bottom of runs, it would wear the snow out. 

“We’ll change stuff up throughout the season, such as ‘rolling’ the snow over on slopes. We break into it and bust it up to get the best snow back on top. Mardi Gras and Morningstar, for instance, get a lot of manmade snow. There is fresh snow that often times resides underneath the top layer, so churning the snow up gives the skier/snowboarder the best possible snow to ride on.” 

Ideally, the crew wants around a foot of either fresh or manmade snow as a base for optimal grooming. 

It’s a job that requires long hours, but like the snowmakers, the groomers are an integral part of why Holiday Valley is ranked 3rd overall on the East Coast.

Thank a groomer!