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Operating snow groomers with passion

An interview with Paul Kirkland

We recently had a chance to talk with snow groomer operator Paul Kirkland, who follows his profession in both New Zealand and the USA, and gave us some exciting insights into his passion, snow grooming. In the interview, we learned about the challenges he has to deal with, how he finds a balance between family and work, what his daily work routine looks like and much more. Finally, he gave us some useful hints on how to get a glimpse of what it's like to work as a snow groomer operator.


How long have you been working as a snow groomer operator?


I started my first season in 2003 at Treble Cone in NZ.


What is your home mountain?


Treble Cone NZ and Palisades Tahoe USA (Squaw Valley).


What do you like best about working as a snow groomer operator?


Everything! The challenging conditions, The people we work with, Getting to operate these awesome pieces of equipment.


What is the biggest challenge in your work?


Juggling family life and being away for extended periods of time.


How did you come to be part of the slope team at the Olympics?


I was invited to join the team by my old boss from Treble Cone, Dave Crotty. He has been involved in the previous two Olympics also.


Are these the first Olympic Games you've been to?


Yes.


Are there any special challenges in the preparation of Olympic slopes?


Not really it's the same as any world cup course, you need to take the time to get a consistent snow density through the snowpack and surface.


Are there any significant differences in the preparation of competition slopes versus “normal” tourist slopes?


The biggest difference is the surface. We will water the entire course to get a hard, fast and consistent surface that will not blow out during the race. On a commercial slope you are looking for a softer surface that an average skier can actually get an edge into.


For which disciplines do you prepare the slopes in China?


I was on the Speed side of the venue so Downhill and SuperG.


What does a working day look like for you in China right now?


Now that the course is built and watered we don't have to do too much to it unless it snows so we come up each morning to watch the races. After the race the Chief of Course will let us know if any areas need to be cleaned up, generally just a few areas of slip piles on the net roads and then till out the access roads.


How long have you been in China for your job?


This is the third winter. I arrived in the mid of November to do 21 days of quarantine and started pushing snow early December this season.


How many machines are in operation in the National Alpine Center in China? Which PRINOTH models are in use?


There are 26. We have a mix of Tier 4 2019 LEITWOLF and BISON winches, a couple of BISON free groomers, BISON crane cat and two LEITWOLF Passenger cats.


Have you had any experience with PRINOTH's snow measurement software? How does it support you in your work as a snow groomer operator?


Unfortunately not as yet. I hear good things about it and am looking forward to using it in the future.


Tell us your most memorable moment from your experience in China.


The new friends I have made and experiencing the Chinese culture and hospitality for sure. It was an amazing time.


How does it feel to see the world’s best athletes competing on the slopes you have prepared?


It's a pretty awesome feeling to stand on the side of the downhill and watch those guys and gals go screaming by at 140 km/h on a surface you have spent a lot of time and energy preparing for them.


Do you have any advice for someone wanting to get into snow grooming?


If you are keen and interested, get up to your local mountain and ask to go for a ride along. If you have the right attitude and willingness to learn there are always opportunities out there to get in a machine.