If you’ve ever marvelled at the skill (and bravery) of Kassbohrer drivers as they move up and down the night-time slopes, then this is the article for you. SRA recently caught up with the Falls Creek snow-grooming crew, and had the opportunity to ask exactly what it takes….what’s involved, and even about UFOs and other things that go ‘bump in the night’. All images courtesy of Falls Creek.
SRA: Firstly, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview. You’ve probably been working all night? What sort of hours does a snow-groomer keep?
Slope grooming is done during all hours that the ski hill is shut. At Falls Creek we have two shifts, the swing shift goes from 4:30pm until 5:00am, and then the graveyard shift goes from 8:00 pm until 8:30 am.
SRA: The Kassbohrers you drive are absolute beasts; are they difficult to maneuver? Have you ever hit anything?
They take some getting used to as tracked machines behave differently to most vehicles, however they do have many similarities with the controls. After a few seasons it becomes second nature to most operators. Hitting hidden land features can be easy to do while doing big push jobs, but a seasoned operator will know how to tread lightly and avoid damage to the machine.
SRA: On that note, how does one become a snow-groomer; clearly you can’t just step out of your Hyundai i30 straight into the cab of a Kassbohrer?
The best way to become a groomer is to spend time with experienced groomers and have them show you the ropes. Heavy machinery experience often makes the transition easier, but by showing your pride in work and by proving you can operate with finesse, you will usually end up with a job.
SRA: Grooming is one of the most important jobs on the mountain (clearly); what’s the secret to obtaining the perfect ‘corduroy’ we all love to ride?
Being able to manipulate the snow with your blade and processing it correctly with your tiller will give you the best results.
SRA: Do you integrate your activities with the snow-makers? I’d imagine you work closely together?
Yes, we work closely together because they make the snow; it piles up into ‘whales’ that need to be spread out with the snowcat. We also coordinate with the snow makers to make snow strategically in certain areas.
SRA: You work into the wee hours of the morning; how do you stay awake? Coffee and/or loud music? What’s your music of choice?
Personally – my fuel of choice is coffee, meat pies and punk rock. And I suppose some diesel too.
SRA: Have you ever seen anything really strange out there late at night i.e. yowies or UFO’s
You normally just see other groomers… Groomers are fairly strange.
SRA: What are the perks to the job? i.e. first tracks, popularity with the ladies/boys?
Accessibility to the ski hill is definitely a perk, and probably why most of us do it. Other than that playing with huge expensive toys – and being paid to do it, is a good motivation. For me personally, I am able to be creative with my job building terrain parks – then having fun trying them myself, and watching other people have fun in them too.
SRA: Have you ever taken any one on a date in the cab of your Kassbohrer?
Yes I have. It would be rude not to…