Mountain to up grooming by 20 percent
VAIL — During the past couple of years, snowcat operators have been achieving between 7,000 and 9,000 acres per week of groomed terrain on the mountain. This year, a goal has been set to add another 2,000 acres to that weekly average and up the frequency on certain runs.
“In some cases we are taking runs that were groomed two, three or four times per week and we are grooming them nightly because we think that that’s the right thing to do for our guests,” said Elizabeth Howe, Vail Mountain’s senior director of mountain operations. “For example Avanti, Pickaroon, Columbine, Simba, Mid-Vail Express, Timberline Face, those are going from being groomed two to four times per week to every night.”
Other runs are now being groomed twice per week, including Blue Ox, which Howe said came highly recommended.
“Ledges, Showboat, Berries, The Preserve, we’ve doubled those,” Howe said. “They were being groomed once per week and they are now being groomed twice per week.”
‘SURPRISE AND DELIGHT’
And then there are the others. Some Vail regulars will recall skiing a groomed Forever, or Roger’s Run; maybe it didn’t appear on the grooming report, maybe it did.
“We have runs that we would rarely groom and just surprise and delight our guests with, and those we are increasing the frequency on, as well,” Howe said.
Howe said the exercise of retooling the grooming schedule was pretty fun, actually.
“Over the summer we grabbed our ski and ride school management team and said, ‘How do you guys teach on the mountain?” she said. “They told us how they teach a lesson over a week of time and what their guests are looking for, and we incorporated those different ideas into creating different patterns and different grooming schedules.”
COULD GO AFTER MORE
The idea has been in action for a while.
Two years ago, Vail installed a system on their snowcats which would feed them data about how the cats perform. Those examining the data came to the conclusion that with more training, Vail could better optimize performance. Howe described it as a reimagining of the way they do grooming.
“Everything from the way the cats perform to the training programs to travel patterns to where we parked our cats,” she said. “The sum of all of that over the last two years was this goal that we started talking about publicly this year, and we think that if we can achieve this we think that we can then go after even more in the future.”
Howe says so far, they are hitting the goal.
“We totally maximized our assets provided our operators with incredible training opportunities,” she said. “It was really maximizing our capital assets and our human assets and realizing that we could deliver more of what our guests wanted.”