Italy’s most experienced operator
1. Mr. Degiorgis, thank you for time. When did you start operating snow groomers?
I first started thirty to thirty-five years ago with the PRINOTH T4 then T4S and later on the 500.
2. How did you get into snow groomer operation?
I used to be a ski instructor and always had a passion for slopes and snow. When I operated a snow groomer, I could see people skiing the next day and if I could get a slope right, it was perfect for me.
3. Which type of snow groomer did you get to operate first and which is your favorite? And why?
The T4, then the T4S, 500, LEITWOLF, Everest, Bison. There was a big change. The 500 was a beautiful snow groomer, bringing new technology and allowing you to do jobs you couldn't do with the others. Even now the 500 is my favorite, for the drivability and because it is the snow groomer that changed the technology of snow groomers. Driving a 500 was like driving a car—very sensitive, very smooth, and you could trust it even though it didn’t weigh much. Even in deep snow you could go down steep slopes and it didn't skid, whereas other snow groomers used to skid a lot more.
4. When you started operating snow groomers, did you think you would be doing this job until you retired?
Yes! I started 35 years ago to do that. Back then I was the station manager and I always drove the snow groomer at night.
5. What are the things you enjoy most about the job?
First of all, the nature. At night you're alone and it's beautiful, you can think about so many things. And then after a snowfall, when you hit the trail at night and dawn comes, it's magnificent. You actually get to see beautiful sceneries, and every once in a while you can even come across an animal and spend time seeing it. And most importantly, you also get to make a good slope.
6. For you, what makes a slope perfect?
A perfect slope must be smooth, there shouldn't be any steps between one pass and another. The tilling must also be done well, that there are no lumps or things like that. Try to see if there are any notches, and if you have a lot of snow also to shape the slope and make it as good as possible.
7. You were a ski instructor. Do you happen to remember the early days of skiing?
At the beginning of skiing, the slopes were basically groomed by foot, however, after a day of skiing they were full of bumps. In these situations, they used to flatten the humps by hand with picks, then they used rollers and tried to fix them with that. Later, the first snow groomers were developed. They had no tiller and no blade. With these, they would drive over the humps and flatten them a little bit, but the slopes were always pretty poor compared to what they can be like today.
8. What was the most exciting experience you had operating a snow groomer?
Preparing race tracks. It is important to me to prepare them well and to see that all athletes and coaches are satisfied with the work I do.
9. How many hours do you think you have spent on a snow groomer in your entire life?
500 hours every winter for 30 years. There`s one winter where you do more, but on average it`s 500 to 600 hours per year.
10. You witnessed the development of snow groomers. In your opinion, what was the most revolutionary development that really changed something for the work of a snow groomer operator?
The 12-way blade, it changed the possibilities to work with blades a lot. Then the improved tillers, which have more performance. And of course, the whole machine has more horsepower … But the 12-way blade really enables you to do work differently.
11. Today, there are technologies that help operators do their job, for example, snow measurement. What’s your opinion on this?
You can see exactly how much snow you have underneath the vehicle! Everything has obviously improved. An operator who has worked at a site for many years knows everything about the area. An operator who is new to a ski resort, on the other hand, does not. He will always prefer a machine that tells him how much snow there is. Even an experienced operator benefits, but is less dependent, because he knows where the snow is and where the wind is blowing off the most. But for an operator who’s new to a ski resort, having such a machine is a big advantage.
12. Is there anything you would like to pass on to the next generation of snow groomer operators?
You have to do this work with passion. It should not be done to earn the money, you have to feel it inside. You have to do it for the passion of being in the mountains, for the passion of being alone and the passion for the beautiful snow groomer. Everything about that job is beautiful. Even if you struggle being alone.