Ready for a big winter
November 15, 2013
There’s a bit of work to do before we are skiing at PCMR a week from now. There’s lots of action around the base area, and I’m sure even more up on the hill. But with temperatures in the 60’s, there hasn’t been a lot of snowmaking yet. Maybe the storm forecast for this weekend will be enough to get the snowmaking restarted, and a good dose of the real stuff, too. A week can make all the difference in the world this time of year.
The last little cold snap was enough to convince me to invert the closet. The bike gear is all boxed up, and the ski stuff is down where I can get at it. The ski pants got a fresh dose of water-proofing, and I’ve located most of the gear that somehow gets scattered every spring. I’ve lived in the same house for nearly 30 years now. You’d think there might be some routines established by now. The ski boots will turn up one of these days. If the new puppy knows where they are, he isn’t telling. My guess is I put them someplace safely out of his reach, right after he ate my bike shoes. So I’m more or less ready.
The consensus on the winter forecast is that we are in for a big one. That’s based on little more than frustration after last couple of years and a sense that we are statistically due for a big year. My hornet nest theory is pointing that direction, and the law of averages sort of backs them up. After a couple of years of bouncing from one ridiculous extreme to the other, a reversion to the mean seems like a reasonably safe bet.
There are other indications that people are expecting a heavy winter. Traffic at the tractor dealership in Heber is brisk. I had been running some errands in Heber a while ago, and stopped to look at some used tractors with enclosed cabs. I’ve never had a tractor with a cab before. When it’s really nasty, I’m out there blowing snow with nothing but the Carhartt overalls and scratched up ski goggles for protection. One thing led to another, and I ended up buying a new tractor with an enclosed cab. The deluxe model.
It’s the most expensive piece of machinery we’ve ever owned on the ranch, though you do have to factor in that the last really big, workhorse tractor we bought was in 1983 when a dollar was worth something. There has been some significant progress in the department of creature comforts over the last 30 years, not to mention that I still use equipment that starts with a crank. Some of the basics include mufflers that actually muffle the engine noise and control levers that are within reach for somebody with a wingspan shorter than LeBron James’. And then there is the heater, air conditioner, and windshield wipers (front and rear). Work lights so you can see what you are doing at night. Did I mention the iPod dock? The cab is so quiet you can actually hear it over the engine — through the speakers instead of noise-cancelling headphones. A heated seat was not available, though there may be some after-market options.
Once I had made the decision to upgrade, I wanted it set up exactly to my liking. It took a while to get it all pimped out — I mean, set up — the way I wanted it, and some stuff had to be ordered in. So I was in and out of the dealership several times, checking on progress and just visiting it. They are selling big, expensive tractors like hotcakes this year, and they are all rolling out the door with huge snow blowers on them. Apparently, everybody dusted off the equipment they hardly used last winter and decided that if we were going to revert to average snowfall, they definitely need new machinery to deal with it. If we don’t have a huge winter, there will be a lot of very disappointed people out there, and not just the skiers. There may be a lot of guys sitting out in the driveway, listening to their iPods in the toasty-warm cabs of new tractors, all dressed up with no snow to blow.
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In the 1800s, there was a "scientific" theory that the rain would follow the plow. Plow up the dry plains, and it would surely rain enough to water the crops. The local version of that is that if you buy a big enough tractor, it will surely snow enough to justify it. If tractor sales are in any way predictive of the winter snowfall, and there’s no reason to think that’s any less reliable than all that "el Niño" crap they talk about, we are in for a big one.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.