In the summer of 2014, Mt. Hood Meadows grooming and vehicle maintenance crews teamed up to build a high-capacity snow trailer to transport snow. They gutted a snowcat, and built the aluminum frame hydraulic bed on the chassis. No one knew then how critically important that snow hauler would become for a snow-starved 2014-15 season, and for seasons to come. The innovation is credited for being able to open terrain that season that would not have been possible with the skimpy snowpack. Snow harvesting and transporting was born.
Season after season, Meadows has experimented with and improved our snow harvesting capability, which has become a staple for early season operations. According to Director of Fleet Operations Jeremy Evans, “Our approach grew from renting a couple of Maruka treaded snow dump trucks, to designing and fabricating our own dump beds to attach to snowcats. The current fleet of three cats with loaders and dump beds are much more nimble and our customized beds actually have more snow-carrying capacity than those we can purchase.” Meadows designed, fabricated and fitted two of those dump beds.
Meadows also has revved up its fleet of plowing and loading equipment with big yellow loaders, graters, a snow blower and highway plow trucks. The goal is to harvest early season snow from parking lots, pile it up to preserve it, then load it into the dump cats to transport and deposit on the snow.
The early season focus is the lift ramps, which will be critically important this season. In the past, snow harvesting allowed Meadows to offer preview days on limited runs and lifts operating before there was enough snow to begin the regular season. This year, the focus is on opening as much terrain and lifts as is needed to meet the projected early season demand. There will not be a race to open on a limited basis, as COVID guidelines require a deeper snowpack to build larger lift mazes and keep everyone spread out.
Snow harvesting will help - and in fact, has been used not just to move parking lot snow, but to haul snow to patchy areas on the hill. Last season, the first snow bridge into Heather was built from snow hauled by our snowcats, which allowed for an earlier opening of the Canyon than normal.
As awesome as this specialized equipment is, and as talented and committed as our snow haulers are, we still need Mother Nature to do her part to allow us to kick off the season. We all are itching to get our turns in, but be patient. Let’s not rush into an overcrowded situation that jeopardizes the rest of the season.