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Winch cat groomed steeps?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hello Folks,

In my "Fun on narrow groomed trails" thread these two members brought up another unrelated interesting topic that deserves some discussion on its own.

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I wrote:
My resort regularly winch grooms a few expert slopes some which have particularly steep sections which most good skiers cannot control their speed well on even if they tried... -dave
IntellektualSpew wrote:

At Turner there are two groomed runs. anything that needs to be winch groomed shouldn't be. ever. what blasphemy!! what the hell is that?? I cannot comprehend how or why a run would be winch groomed, anywhere, for ANY reason! when the snow is crusty, we ski the crust, damnit. we ski the gnarliest crust we can. instead of skiing, we do big pole plants and hammer our feet into the crust, making weird, jump turns that don't belong on a 30 degree slope. hahaha. wussy groomers. ...

spinheli wrote:

Spew is totally right. Winch catting steep slopes is a horrible thing. Here at Mammoth, they blasted off the top of Cornice Bowl back in the eighties, and use a winch cat to groom the life out of it. It used to be a great run (and still is sometimes), but now, they usually groom it after every storm. I guess it is a good thing for racing, as they run FIS SG and DH down it. One thing it really changed was the run's safety. If you fall on Cornice when it's groomed, you are likely in for a fast slide of several hundred verts. Of course this run gets real crowded when it's freshly groomed, so the slider usually takes out another 2 or 3 people. It is actually kind of fun to watch. They should rename it "Tourist Bowl", since they just about never leave the cornice on it.

The only good thing about winch cats, is how you can pull snow up the slope. This is pretty useful early season, and on dry years. They actually winch cat lots of runs for this reason, that are not that steep. Otherwise, the cats push the snow down the hill...
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At my season pass resort which has a lot steep terrain and an average 500 inch yearly snow pack, two 1000 foot vertical runs are winch groomed most days and 3 others are groomed occasionally. Like Mammoth's cornice much of these runs are too steep to be safely groomed without cat winching. I personally enjoy cranking short swings down a steep 50% grade slope when it is nice freshly groomed packed powder but within a few days if it hasn't snowed again, continued grooming just makes a bunch of unpleasant firm pack slabs that take more work to hold a good edge on. That is what spinheli is talking about in Cornice Bowl. Cornice bowl was much better when one had to negotiate the tricky drop in track and then negotiate the powder bumps. spinheli, I always jump into the bumps on the left of the bowl which are such a pleasure. If I want steep and smooth the east side of Dave's Run face in windblown is a better idea.
Sometimes at my resort they have groomed ridge drop ins with about 100% grade and at that pitch almost no one is going to do short turns at the top. And like at Mammoth they made for long falls and I haven't seen them groom those again like that for a few years. Lots of customers prefer the winched runs and that is why the resort smooths them out. That is ok with me as long as they don't flatten out my bump runs which they seem to want to do on occasion. That messes them up by creating flat slabby bumps in certain sections. Also I don't like them grooming next to my bump runs because it siphons off skiers who would otherwise contribute to the loose snow. -dave
post #2 of 17
I've heard of winch grooming slopes but I've never seen it. That would be interesting to see. Does anyone have a picture of it or know where on the web to get one? I think if those of us that have never experienced it could see it then maybe we'd understand a little better.
post #3 of 17
[quote]Originally posted by Argus:
A local area here winch grooms an expert slope about twice a season.

I've seen them winch groom at Jay. Usually after a trail has gotten bumped up, hit with a thaw and refrozen (glare ice bumps) or before a large dump is expected and the existing trail is hard (but not frozen) bumps.

In the east its necessary. As long as management limits its use and keeps a selection of trails available in various conditions (groomed, bumped) I have no problems.
post #4 of 17

Winch grooming is done by using a cable that is anchored at the top of the steep run (sometimes to a tree or another groomer or a specific anchor). That cable is tied to the groomer that goes up and down the steep slope. The anchor and cable are necessary so that the groomer can work on the steep run. I hope that explains it.
post #5 of 17
post #6 of 17
This is alittle off the winch cat theme. Winching is used in many situations. I have used winching in construction and logging. There's nothing like being lowered off a cliff of 30-40 % in a 100 ft. truck. Kinda like skiing,right. Anyway, here's a picture of a few trucks being pulled through a 12 mile sand pit in Wonderful Wyoming by a D-10 dozer.
post #7 of 17
They use winch grooming at a few runs at Mt.Norquay, Banff. They do a really good job of it and it can be so fun first thing in the morning when its soft (and not scraped away yet). They also leave some of the steeper runs ungroomed which is great too.
post #8 of 17
There are a number of runs winch groomed on Whistler Mtn. Jimmy's Joker is among my favourites. Winch grooming is no different than any other grooming, but it provides a margin of safety for the groomers and stops track damage to the slope from spinning out.

These steep, smooth slopes are great fun, and allow for aggressive carving while maintaining maximum speed. For a true kamikaze experience, try straight-lining one of these. The slopes tend to be devoid of crowds, 'cause the diamond scares off the tail draggers, so you can really open up.

For those who don't agree with grooming such runs; there is only a small portion of black runs that receive this kind of treatment. When it hasn't snowed for days and the moguls on the steeps have set up like boulders, a bit of corduroy is welcome, without sinking to the level of (gasp!) blue cruisers.
post #9 of 17
To be perfectly honest and frank winch grooming is dangerous and costly.

If there is a VERY steep run we would tend to want the groomer to go DOWN it giving the groomer his best chance to do the job.

IF a run is SO STEEP and remote that a cat can not get down it, possibly it should NOT be groomed and should remain BUMPS!

Winch cat operations are exciting however take their toll on man and machine. (Oh and the insurance suits do not like it either)

Just a thought, not to put a damper on things but the view from Mountain Management is sometimes a valuable thing.

Have fun though, it is a machine heads dream!
post #10 of 17
Oh, yes, I've seen it a few times here
(here being anywere in the Italian alps).
Now they've changed strategy, they've flattened the slopes. :
post #11 of 17
This was written after reading a post that has since been deleted. Said post called basphamy at any winch grooming.....

A local area here winch grooms an expert slope about twice a season. It is a great steep slope and at times the bumps get enormous. We've all realized that only a small percentage of people on the hill actually KNOW how to ski bumps. The lines get morphed into irregular patterns with troughs perpendicular to the fall line making it hard to find a good rhythm.
Here comes the cats’ winching up the steep slope smoothing it out before the next storm. Have you ever experienced the complete joy and excitement of arc'n on a slope so steep that it should not be groomed? Add the fact that it snowed 6-10" the night before and you have an opportunity before you that only comes around every once in a blue moon.
They do it to control slopes and make them skiable again for the wanderers than end up where they probably should not be. The benefit for us is that we get to ski a very steep slope smooth as butter a couple times a year.
Skiing steep groomers is fun when the conditions about the rest of the area a minimal. Pure rebound is a wonderful sensation and should not ever be taken lightly.
Different slopes for different folks.
If you never think about your skiing on the groomed, you'll never get better in the crud.

post #12 of 17
Snowbasin has at least three winch cats and a number of sections of both the men's and women's downhill courses that can't be groomed without winching.

While I was volunteering as a course worker for the aborted World Cup races there last March, we got to watch the winch-cats in action. I don't care how you feel about the aesthetics of grooming runs that steep - watching one of these things growl up the face, pivot around, and hang on that cable going down is amazing.

Big iron is cool.

My only question involves the driver. The pivot arm that attaches the cat to the cable ends up right outside the windshield as the cat is headed up. That means you're driving upteen tons of vehicle stretched out on a 1"+ steel cable and you're looking right straight up the line of that wire. If that cable ever broke near the top, the cable flying downhill would turn you into a bloody pile of spaghetti before you could even blink an eye.


post #13 of 17
Depending on what the trail is being used for winch grooming is a must at many areas. If the trail is widley used all day long, the snow will naturally avalanch off from skier to skier. The winch cat has the ability to replinish the fallen snow back to the top of the trail. Like many have said, grooming is necessary when it comes to prepapring a trail before a race. Its more than necessary, ite absolutly!!! necessary. From being an X racer i know how smooth it has to be. You don't want any crust,death cookies, or heavy mash potatos or powder to be on the trail. if you make a mistake on steeps like that at intense speeds, its not going to be pretty!

Also having a grooming background i can understand managements thinking when they flatten a kick ass double diamond. Saftey first! Eventhough i know why, it dosen't mean i have to like it. coming from a small mountain, i hate when they groom my bumps, because it takes so long for them to form.

spark it!
post #14 of 17
At Stowe, take a look at the top of National(the trail under the quad). On the cat track that leads toward Goat, there is a pole(I think) with a cable attached to it. Can't remember if the cable is screwed into a pole or actual rock. But I believe the top portion of National is groomed via winch.
post #15 of 17
A few years ago, when I heard Mammoth was replacing chair 3, a slow double, with a high speed quad, I thought, "Cool, that will build up the moguls even faster". Unfortunately, they groom most of it every night. .

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ November 07, 2001 11:54 AM: Message edited 1 time, by milesb ]</font>
post #16 of 17
If the cable didn't kill you the fall would.
post #17 of 17
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Dr.GO:
To be perfectly honest and frank winch grooming is dangerous and costly.

If there is a VERY steep run we would tend to want the groomer to go DOWN it giving the groomer his best chance to do the job.

Grooming down tends to pull snow DOWN too. During low-snow times winch catting allows groomers to leave more snow on certain slopes and to move snow to places and in directions they couldn't without the help.
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