If you're skiing or snowboarding in winter, you'll see them everywhere on the slopes: the snow groomer drivers, also known as snow cats. With their massive tracked vehicles, they ensure that the snow cover on the slopes is optimally prepared and that skiers and snowboarders find the best conditions. But who are the people operating these impressive machines and how do they work? We asked Lukas, a snow groomer driver, and received some interesting background information. Find out more in this blog article and take a look behind the scenes with us. 🔥✨
Education and taks of a snow groomer driver
📝 NAKED Optics: Which education do you need to be able to work as a slope groomer?
👉 Lukas: "You don't need any special training to prepare a slope. However, you should have a certain feeling for snow and, above all, not be afraid of the cold, wet and night work. It is also important that you have a feel for the terrain, a technical understanding and that you enjoy the work. Then it definitely works well to work as a snow groomer.”
📝 NAKED Optics: Which tasks and activities does your job actually involve?
👉 Lukas: There are various tasks related to the scope of the job. Of course, snowmaking, which begins in summer, is important. Different machines are required for this. There are also existing snow guns, such as assault guns and lances, that are on site all year round. This is followed by basic snowmaking. A basic snow cover is created here so that the slope can continue to be snowed or Mother Hulda snowed the slope 😉. This is a rough summary of how snowmaking works. As a slope groomer, you then have the task of moving and leveling the piles of artificial snow in autumn. The snow is applied everywhere. As a result, the masses of snow must be tended to for skiers and guests. As a slope groomer, you want to create a beautiful slope image so that everyone can enjoy it. Snowmaking and grooming are the most important tasks.
Working in the snow: A typical work day for snow groomer drivers
📝 NAKED Optics: So what does a normal working day in winter actually look like?
👉 Lukas: Of course, the working day depends on the weather. I usually start at 4pm in the afternoon. Then the machines are checked first and little things like cleaning the windows, checking the oil and water levels are done. Of course you also have to check whether you have enough tank. When the device is ready to go and the windows are clean, the preliminary meeting begins. It is discussed here who has to do what and who takes on which tasks. At 5.30 p.m. we all drive out together. Of course, grooming the slopes is particularly important here. At a later hour, around midnight, most of them are about done with their tasks. We will then talk again and clarify who still has to do what and whether there is anything special that needs to be done. At around 2:00 a.m. we'll fill up again and sit down again. Sometimes we drink a beer after work 😉 On average, the working day is over after 12 hours.
📝 NAKED Optics: Approximately how many snow groomers does a ski area actually have?
👉 Lukas : It's very different. At the ski resort where I currently work, we have 9 snow groomers that run every day and one machine for the park, so a total of ten machines. Then we have a few smaller devices. Before that I worked in a ski resort where we had 33 machines. That always depends on the size of the ski area.
Slope preparation in detail: This is how the perfect slope is created for skiers and snowboarders
📝 Michael from "Helden der Nacht" also gave us interesting insights into the preparation.
👉 Michael: Of course, how much work and time the preparation takes depends on the day of skiing. If the ski slope was left very bumpy, then you have to prepare the slope more often and more intensively for the next day. Here you first have to push in the snow, level the slope and then prepare it. Basically, you try to finish between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. Depending on the size of the ski area, more or less snow groomers are needed to be ready at this time.
💡 Good to know: 💡 The slopes are always closed outside of operating hours, unless night skiing is possible. So if you are out on the slopes or want to do a ski tour at night, you are not only in danger, you are also breaking the rules. The slopes are usually closed between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m.
The art of slope preparation: creating perfect slope conditions
📝 NAKED Optics: Finally: Lukas, what makes the perfect ski slope for you?
👉 Lukas: The combination of a flat surface, a super track with few waves so that the skier can ski well and, of course, no ice sheets. Everyone has their own secret on how to perfectly prepare the slope. For me, the search for perfection is the secret of the perfect slope, namely getting the most out of the slope every day.
Credits: Photo by Patrick T'Kindt on Unsplash