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Heroes

Heroes of the night

The heroes of the night roll out the white carpet for you

A fantastic day of skiing draws to a close. Most skiers are already enjoying their well-deserved refreshment or getting ready for the après-ski ahead. It’s three o’clock in the afternoon.

For our slope crew, this means the start of their shift. The first step is always to walk around the 523 horsepower beasts equipped with the latest technology. “We do this to spot any minor damages right away,” reports Matthias, one of the seven snowcat drivers responsible for perfectly grooming the slopes in the Ratschings ski area every day. Step two is to oil the many delicate mechanical and hydraulic points.

After all, everything needs to be well oiled when the 2.8-metre-wide blade penetrates the slope to redistribute the snow that has slid down. After the lifts have closed, everything starts right on time, the engines roar, flashing lights illuminate the mountain, and the cutters claw their way into the snow. “All drivers have their own route, preventing the vehicles from crossing each other several times and enabling efficient work without additional routes.”

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Depending on the weather and the time of the season, the end of the working day is sometimes pushed forward and sometimes back. “You have to be flexible: if snow falls at night, the slopes have to be prepared in the morning. This means that sometimes you have to start at 4 a.m. to have everything ready on time for the opening of the ski area.”

Matthias drives one of the two so-called “winch machines”, which means his snow groomer is also equipped with a winch. This has a pulling force of 4.5 tonnes – an enormous help, especially in spring, when the slopes are soft.

What makes driving snowcats a dream job? “The feeling of freedom when you make your rounds alone at night in such a huge machine or the view out of the window at over 2,000 metres above sea level when the sky is painted red at sunset.”

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