Nordic Centre Notes Feb 19, 2020
Wednesday February 19, 2020
The PistenBully is out of action again. Should be working again next week. In the meantime, Patrick and other groomers will be freshening up the trails with the snowmobile-pulled Ginzu. Great skiing is still available. The following is background iand more details f you are interested.
As I explained in the Jan 24th Nordic Notes, we have been taking a more pro-active maintenance approach to the PistenBully with the objective of keeping it going indefinitely; like Beaver airplanes which were built in the 50s and 60s but still flying today. We recently replaced the track belts and several hydraulic pumps. But the PistenBully is a complex machine that relies on hydraulics with many systems and parts. During January we had problems with valves that would not lift the tiller. That eventually got fixed (a few different fixes were necessary). Other small issues arose and got fixed. Around the same time, we continued to have difficulties with the Skandic snowmobile which pulls our small Ginzu groomer. Luckily, James Smids at 4us2Fix got our Skandic operating much better because last Friday Feb 14 the PistenBully broke down again. It is now "parked" conveniently close, in the Biathlon loop. The Final Drive which powers the left track needs replacing. Both Final drives were replaced about 4 years ago but apparently, it is not uncommon for them to fail after 4 or 5 years. A new Final Drive costs about $12,000 but we will get a rebuilt one for about $7500. Our mechanic (Jace Heavy Duty Repair in Kelowna) has a used one that he will rebuild once he receives a set of $3000 bearings from Germany. Brant, Patrick and James plan to install it next week.
In the meantime, Patrick and other groomers are freshening up the trails with the Ginzu groomer pulled by our Skandic snowmobile. We should be able to keep all trails in good condition given the low snow in the forecast.
I have been asked: Is our PistenBully a lemon? No it is not. Our machines and other large hydraulicly driven snow machines take a lot of maintenance and are prone to occaisional breakdowns. I heard that the ski hill recently had difficulties with their grooming machines and I hear stories from other clubs about problems with grooming machines, new and old. The machines are wonderful when they work but they will breakdown occaisionally. We have replaced parts that were near end of life and we intend to be more aggressive in our maintenance procedures. We will try to have key parts on hand (e.g. next year's budget will include money for the other Final Drive since it is getting near end of life). I believe we made the right decisions about keeping this PistenBullly and adopting a pro-active maintenance approach. However, we need to be better prepared to provide grooming when the PistenBully has its nevitable downtime. We need a better backup tracksetting system than our current Skandic-Ginzu.
We are currently exploring a number of options to supplement or replace the Skandic snowmobile. Regardless of the options we choose, we will put some effort into the old Alpine twin-tracks and Yakka classic track maker so that we can have backups to our backup. (We have 2 twin-tracks that can run and 1 for spare parts). We are also making plans for a heatable garage so that we can properly maintain and repair of our machines. These will be expensive but way less than buying a new, full-size tracksetter; (which would still have down times). We have some money available in our machine and infrastructure reserves and we are getting pretty good at applying for grants. We may also seek some private donations (from people like you and me) to improve our grant eligibility. Stay tuned for more information as we work on those plans. Feel free to contact me if you have questions or comments.
Director, Nordic Centre Operations