A Full Day of Work by 9:00 AM
While skiers and riders are sleeping in snowy, northwest Colorado, Steamboat Resort is wide awake as certain teams work through the night to make the ski mountain a magical, winter wonderland. From snowcat groomers to snow makers to lift operators and maintenance crews to ski patrol, many different teams are often getting in a full day of work by 9:00 AM.
The most obvious team working through the night to resort guests is the grooming team as their snowcat headlights can be seen moving around the mountain from 4:00 PM to 8:00 AM every night of the ski season. One team of groomers works the swing shift from 4:00 PM to 2:00 AM, while another team of groomers works the so-called graveyard shift from 10:00 PM to 8:00 AM. Each night there are 12 employees between these two shifts operating the beastly machines that lay down such gentle, smooth and pristine corduroy that we all enjoy and certainly appreciate. Steamboat Resort has a total of 18 snowcats that are used for grooming purposes, and seven more snowcats that are used for hauling equipment and supplies around the mountain. In addition to the snowcat groomers, there are the snowcat mechanics onsite every day from 7 AM to 10 PM, based in the shop located near the bottom of Thunderhead lift.
Another team that works through the night, but only seasonally, is the snowmaking team. Typically, the snowmakers start working around the third week of October and work until the middle or end of January. This year, work began on October 20, and because we’ve been graced with consistent early season snowfall in Steamboat Springs, the snowmaking team was finished by December 18. During the early season push to make snow and get a base packed, there are 50 seasonal staff members working various shifts. With teams of five each, there are four different shifts working from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM, noon to midnight, 10:00 PM to 10:00 AM and midnight to noon every day. This amounts to a snowmaking crew that is working 24 hours a day, seven days a week until the work is complete, and Mother Nature takes over.
Lift maintenance crews and lift operators sometimes work through the night and always get in a good amount of early morning work to make the mountain run smoothly for all. Every day, around 100 to 110 lift operators report to work by 6:30 AM. The early morning hours bear the heaviest workload as lift operators perform a thorough safety check on each lift, and remove snow as needed from all the chairs. Obviously, it is up to Mother Nature as to how much snow removal is needed, and if it is a winter like this one, it is often quite a bit. Lift maintenance crews are also reporting to work bright and early at 5:30 AM, and they too run thorough safety checks on every lift to make sure everything is operating safely and properly. There are 30 year-round staff members on the lift maintenance team, and their job does require some flexibility as maintenance issues may arise any time of the day or night. Should there be pressing maintenance issues, a team will often work through the night to make sure all is well by the time the gondolas start loading their first cabins.
Although not typically an overnight crew, the first ski patrollers report to work at 6:30 AM with an additional crew coming in at 7:15 AM. On any given day, there are 35 ski patrollers working at Steamboat Resort, and the entire crew is comprised of around 100 staff members, which includes full-time, part-time, courtesy and volunteer patrollers. The first patrollers to report to duty oversee getting upper mountain ready for First Tracks and bringing up materials such as sleds and first aid supplies to be well prepared for the day ahead. On days where avalanche mitigation is needed, team leaders are heading out by 7:30 AM with explosives to mitigate any avalanche danger in the extreme terrain area (which includes the Chutes all the way over to East Face). Should a search and rescue mission arise, around 6-8 ski patrollers will work late to assist Routt County Search and Rescue as needed.
While all these different teams and departments are technically separate and work on different schedules and timelines, they are very well connected with one another. Daily conference calls are the norm, and the entire Steamboat Resort workforce is a very close-knit community. Behind the scenes, these unsung heroes work extremely hard to make Steamboat Resort one of the most enjoyable and friendly ski areas in the country. They are smart, capable and hard-working men and women who we all need to make sure to thank and appreciate daily. In fact, I have a neighbor who exemplifies that appreciation by making sure to ski every single lift, every single day, just so that he can hand out candy to the hard-working lift operators at Steamboat Resort. Whether it is the snowcat groomers, the early-season snowmakers, the lift maintenance crew, the lift operators or the ski patrollers, many staff members at Steamboat Resort are getting in a full day of work by 9:00 AM.
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