When you see them
at night, they're tiny white lights on a mountain of blackness. During the day, you may catch a glimpse of them parked behind the maintenance garage under a chairlift: hulking machines standing in a row, quiet and muddy. They are the grooming machines-often called snowcats-and operating them is something of an art form. While even the most expensive ski areas can't control the way snow falls, they can certainly move it around once it's on the ground, all for the benefit of you, the skier. To do the moving, they rely on a team of folks like Blademan, a.k.a. John Mozdzier, the veteran grooming supervisor at Sugarbush,Vt. "Grooming is all about knowing your mountain," says the native of Big Tupper, New York. It's also about knowing how to operate a $160,000, eight-and-a-half-ton, 330-horsepower Kassbohrer Pisten Bully 300-which, Blademan points out, "has got some chutzpah." See instructions below. Read them thoroughly before operating.