A Day in the Life of a Vehicle Maintenance Mechanic

A question that we get asked all the time is; “So what do you do all summer at the mountain?” In light of this we are focusing on different departments and doing a ‘day in the life’ segment on each. This week it’s our Vehicle Maintenance Department’s turn. Thursday starts out with a safety and information meeting for all Outdoor Operations personnel. After the meeting everyone disperses to their work areas.

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Fergus has been working on snow-cat number 16. Number 16 is a Pisten Bully snow-cat that was used at the 2010 Winter Olympics. It has a 330 horsepower Mercedes – Benz diesel engine that produces approximately 1200 foot-pounds of torque. What does that mean? Well the snow-cat weighs about the same as a 1 tonne pickup truck with a welder and compressor in the back, but has the torque of a 10 tonne delivery truck. This machine can push lots of snow while ascending or descending 100% slopes! 16 works 16 hours each night moving snow around. All that snow puts stress on the machines, so they go through a comprehensive summer maintenance program.

Today Fergus is re-assembling the hydraulic system. He had to repair the splitter box (like a transmission), which involves removing all of the hydraulic pumps and draining the system. Once the hydraulic system is back in place, and then the fuel tank can be re-mounted. Fergus has already fixed, greased and checked/replaced all 10 wheel bearings on the cat. All that’s left for this cat is to have the tracks, blade and tiller re-installed. That means 2,000 bolts on the tracks need to torqued, the blade needs maintenance as does the tiller. The blade and tiller are the parts that groom the snow, leaving that beautiful corduroy.

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Big White owns 12 cats, which means each summer 24,000 bolts are torqued, 120 wheel bearings are checked or replaced, 12 hydraulic systems are checked, 12 oil changes, 12 hydraulic and coolant systems to be checked and approximately 2400 man hours of work. This means when the Snow-cat Operators show up in November they can start building runs that we all know and love.

Then everything can be thrown a curve ball, when someone arrives with a company vehicle needing something.  The dedicated team of Vehicle Maintenance Mechanic’s get all the cats, company vehicles and heavy equipment through the summer maintenance program before opening day.

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