Grooming at Cheeseman
An interview with James Young, a veteran groomer driver at Cheeseman.
Tell us a little about yourself?
I’ve been part of the ski industry most of my life. I’ve worked in all departments, really. I’ve skied around Scotland in the 60s and 70s. I’ve also groomed in South Korea—A different experience but altogether great. I’m definitely a senior citizen. I’ve been grooming for a long time; and I’m very fortunate to have landed the job that I love and enjoy day in and day out.
How long have you been a groomer driver?
I started grooming in 1986 (32 years).
Where did you start grooming and what excites you about these beautiful machines that you get to use every day?
My grooming days began in Roundhill Ski Area, Tekapo. The machines I got to work with were very high tech. They are a delight to drive; all very comfortable and warm in a freezing environment.
Have you ever been in a sticky situation on the slopes?
Once, I was swept off the White Lady (in Scotland) by an avalanche in the early 1990s. My survival was down to good luck. I managed to get the machine facing down and on top of the snow by going as fast as I could.
What are the groomers you have at Cheeseman?
We have the Kassborhrer Pisten Bully, also known as a PB200 Edge. A lot of snow groomers have nick names so we just call it ‘The Edge’. They aren’t the latest machines, one of them is getting a bit old. We use that one as an auxiliary machine and we also use it on the road. We have a lot of snow on the road so we use the older groomer to blast through the road before the newer groomers.
What are the lift-facilities like at Cheeseman?
We have two main T-bars, with a wide open slope and rope tows. I haven’t always skied at Cheeseman but I’ve been here ten years now.
Cheeseman has some great terrain for all abilities, where do you find the best slopes are after grooming?
Well, just the main T-bar runs. It’s pretty exceptional for all standards of skiers, but, then of course, we’ve got the upper base which is a pretty amazing skiing terrain. I don’t actually ski at all anymore, I do get a kick from producing the perfect run and being able to supply that to the skiers. It’s great to know that the runs are as good as they can get. It’s a good feeling.
How did you come to Cheeseman and what lifestyle have you established to work winters in NZ?
Cheeseman? I think I read about it in the paper. For me, it was like coming home because Cheeseman is such a beautiful place, it really is incredible. Sometimes you need to take a good breather and have a good look around to realise what a beautiful place you’re living in. In the summer, I usually work in construction. Generally, it’s a gig involving machines. So basically, I’m a sucker for the machine.
Tell us what you like best about Cheeseman as a resort?
I like the whole club-feel situation. The fact that it doesn’t appear as an enterprise or entity, but exists as a club, emits a good vibe. We get an incredible array of staff here. With people coming from overseas and locals putting in work and all, it’s just fantastic. Also, seeing young kids skiing about is great. Living and working together with people in such close confines for 12 weeks in a year is a really good life experience not only for me but for the younger generation coming through.
What are you excited about this ski season?
I just can’t wait to get out there every year. In the middle of winter is the best. The snow conditions are so good, and relatively easy to groom compared to the times nearing the spring. Early or mid-winter, the snow is often crisp. When you walk on it, you just know you’re in the best part of the season. So, it’s all very exciting.