Early in the morning, before the sun rises and long before any skier or snowboarder is heading to the mountain, a lot of Mt. Bachelor employees are working hard to prepare for the day.
Once a storm system passes over the Cascades, the resort enters a Storm Recovery mode, a state of operations where employees are working some extra hours.
“Usually on days like today, we’ll actually come in earlier than we do on typical days. So it varies probably between 3:30 and 4:30 each morning when we arrive,” said Corey Crain, lift maintenance manager. He was wrapped up under multiple layers of clothes to stay warm at the top of Pine Martin chair lift on Tuesday.
“My usual alarm is grooming calling, and they usually can call as early as 4:30 in the morning,” said Curtis Norsen, the Mt. Bachelor Ski Patrol director, agreeing that bad weather can start his day very early as well.
When the snow falls, most of the work is done by snow groomers, spending the night running the trails on the mountains. In the early morning, maintenance and operations crews stay busy de-icing the chairlifts with hammers and picks.
It's a necessary job that at times is cold, windy and downright miserable.
“It’s not a matter of showing up, push some buttons, and watch the chairs go through,” Crain said, “We’re talking about heavy equipment that, when (it) ices over, is just as susceptible to the same things that cars are when driving down the road in icy conditions.”
To get rid of ice covering the chairs and the wires requires employees to smack the chair with hammers and poles.
“Today is going to have a lot of labor involved in getting these (chairs) cleaned up,” Crain said.
Another big challenge, in addition to breaking the ice, is deciding whether a lift will even operate for the day at all.
“We have to look at: One, is visibility okay? Two, can the chairlift operate in these winds, and is it safe to put guests out there?” said Norsen.
“Our goal here is to give the guests the mountain as soon as we can, but we have to remember that it needs to be safe, and we need things to be functioning. But that’s our goal through, to get it for them as soon as possible.”