Tuesday, 31st, May, 2011.
The same routine as yesterday, hazardous walk along the dark road to work, bus drive up to base camp and some waiting around uncomfortable wondering if I was ment to be doing something but after the first few times of asking if I could do anything I gave up. Its worse to be a pain in the arse than to be unhelpful I think. Everyone seemed to know what they were doing except me. Although this was a farce in its self, when I asked some of my fellow snow makers who were striding around from the main HR and head office to the work shops what they were doing they gave very vague answer. Looking busy is an art form.
In the late morning the 6 or so new snow makers were taken around to the snow guns around the base camp and shown how to turn them on. The snow guns are large cylinders with a fan at one end and little nozzles at the other end, the nozzles shoot out water while the fan blows it out of the cylinder and it becomes snow ( or at least that’s what I think it does, I will give a better and more accurate explanation when I have the information. This cylinder in movable, standing on a turret which differs in hight from gun to gun but in this ones case was about 3 meters off the ground. It can be swiveled around 360degrees and with the aid of a giant pole can be tipped up or down. there is a crow’s nest which is at the same hight as the gun and which can also be swiveled around the gun so as to access every angle for repairs or de icing. At the bottom of the turret there is the control panel, with this you control the heater, how wet or dry the ice can be, what temperature the weather is and what humidity. Behind the control box there is a mass of wires and switches which should be avoided like the plague as you might get a serious electric shock from it ”you will usually never touch this area only electricians go in there” Boulton said as he patted the control box.
A large metal rim sticks out near the control box ”this is where the water hose goes” Boulton explained. ”then you attach the other end of the hose to this” Boulton walked over and pointed to a thick metal tube coming out of the ground a few meters away. ” but you have to put the actuators on it first. The actuators is kept on the snow gun and is used to control the pressure automaticaly, it’s very important other wise you would have to change the pressure yourself and if it gets to great the hose will come out and smash around like a snake, it’s not good” Boulton went on.
The morning and afternoon was spent practising turning on and off the guns and learning how to turn them and set them up with the hose but we didnt actualy make any snow. I also got my first try on the ski lifts. Myself Andy and Tamara sat on the metal bench as it jutted and slid up the mountain, the rocky ground below as we slid further up the mountain. Not a fan of heights I gripped the safety bar in front of me tightly, we were taken up to the other restaurant further up the mountain and to where there were more guns. Still no snow on this level yet, just bare rocky mountain. Every gun and every slope or gully on the mountain has a nick name. I am only just learning a few. The big ski lift is called ”the giant”, the tallest gun turret is called ”shorty”, there is a place where the midsection pump house is which is called ”hurbies bridge. They all have their meanings but those will be for another time when I can actually remember their names let alone why they are called a certain name.
After a tour of the mid section slops and guns we walked back down the mountain and joined the old snow making crew in the work shop. A ramshackle building with many small rooms made with bare ply walls. It was a building site basically. The crew from last year were up stairs sitting on the sofas cleaning and reattaching the nozzles which are attached to the guns and which shoot out the pressurized water. ”when there is nothing to do we just sit here and clean nozzles all day” one of the crew said.
Us the new crew joined them and learnt how to clean and reconnect the nozzles, again we didn’t know if this was what we were ment to do, there wasnt enough nozzles for everyone to do and Boulton had just told us to go to the work shop. ”should we be doing anything?” I asked Head a tall young Maori man who worked here last year ”nay bro we are just stalling for time, waiting for the end of the day” he said as everyone laughed. The next hour or so was spent drinking hot chocolate and listening to stories about last year. How head almost got hyperthermia on his first day of work, how everyone takes the piss out of Boulton because he wears a helmet when he works, how cool it is to sledge down the slops on a shovel and how when you work at night the slops are lit up with the light of the moon, the clouds below you and night rainbows form full circles below you. ” but you don’t want rainbows, its bad for snow making” Boulton added.
At 4:30 the bus arrived to take us down to Ohakune, going down the road the mountains in the distance with wisps of cloud ringing them, the hills a dark green with mist hanging in their vallys, like a painting, I drank in the view feeling its beauty lift and sooth my soul.