Take it to the Groomer
THE MAN DRIVING the groomer just stole first tracks. Platty has fanatics and die-hard fans, but they don’t necessarily drive the groomer to get the best conditions. Not to mention taking to the wheel of the winch cat and steering it down a 45-degree steep.
Just thinking of that pitch I ask you, what line do you like to ski from Blockbuster, the groomed on skier’s right or the bumps on the left? If it’s anything ever to do with the right, thank Greg Mudge, or a team of Macker and Mudge, though lately Mudge has been driving the winch cat.
Now imagine as you’re thinking about that pitch, being precipitously, perilously suspended from the biggest tree you can find at the top of the run. With, say 500 or so pounds of torque behind you. That is how Block and the other steeps get groomed with a winch, a cable, holding the cat in place because the slope is so steep. The job is so dangerous it scares everyone else to do it, everyone but Macker and Mudge.
Look at Greg though and you’d be surprised. He’s 24 and baby faced, out skiing every weekend, so when he told me he was running the winch cat, I thought it was a joke. No, though, there he is, and he offers me a ride. I decline; the dangers are legion. And he’s unphased by it, he worked three years before building trails at Windham, clearing them and skidding out trees from such slopes at such angles. Now he talks about the dangers in a kind of low-key way.
“Just more can go wrong on a winch cat. It’s basically a groomer with a cable attached to a tree, and people get psyched out.” Then when he actually lists the dangers, I get psyched out too. If the winch stops working you’ll skid out and slip sideways down the hill, unable to stop. And if the winch snaps, that’s a cable with 400 nearly 500 lbs of torque hurtling at you at great speed. It could hit the cab, snap the windshield. He avoids mentioning that it could also hit him.
But this Sunday I think it was all worth it for Greg. He got first tracks, groomed at 6 AM, had first chair, loading just after the top lift operator. “I needed,” Mudge said, “to inspect my work.”