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Riding Shotgun at Ski Sundown

For skiers and snowboarders, 10 p.m. on a recent Sunday night signaled the end of another exciting day on the mountain. 

But as Kurt Sexauer and Kirk Matava navigated 8-ton plus PistenBully Grooming machines onto the trails at Ski Sundown, their night was just beginning. 

It was bumpy ride for a novice, with quick changes in direction, steady and sharp climbs, some bumpy terrain and some sweet 180s.

Sexauer, a 10-year grooming veteran, made it looks easy and didn't miss a beat as he talked about and performed the job at once. Still his eyes constantly refocused on the terrain while he steered and adjusted the controls for a specialized plow blade in front of the machine’s cab. As he dug through and leveled the snow, a tiller and drag at the rear of the machine softened and smoothed the surface, leaving behind a fresh layer of "corduroy."

Sundown runs its two groomers for about an hour every evening, refreshing trails for night skiers and snowboarders. Then after closing, the intense grooming begins. The duration depends on the conditions. Some nights they go nearly until the lifts open the next day.

For Sexauer, this recent Sunday night was “ideal.” Some fresh snow and cold temperatures make it relatively easy to refresh the trails.

 On other nights, groomers have more complex duties. When snowmaking is in full force, there’s the added duty of spreading out the snow before grooming.

On select days, there’s also extra work building terrain features and more.  

Sundown has invested heavily in snowmaking and grooming over the years. Owner Bob Switzgable said it’s great to see how customers have come to expect good conditions.

“We certainly do our best to make sure they get those conditions,” Switzgable said. 

That, however, involves a lot of hard work, he added.

Sexauer, Matava and three co-workers rotate overnight grooming shifts. They join snowmakers and many others who work behind the scenes at Ski Sundown. 

“It’s amazing the amount of work that gets done when we’re closed,” said owner Bob Switzgable. “It takes a special breed to stay up all night.”


Ski Sundown is located at 126 Ratlum Road, off Routes 44 and 219, in New Hartford. For lift ticket and rental rates, lesson and event information, visit skisundown.comcall the Welcome Center at (860) 379-7669 or check https://www.facebook.com/Ski.Sundown?ref=br_tf

 

MarianneBurbank January 30, 2014 at 07:00 AM
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