Christmas morning got underway at 5:30 AM. In most households with kids, the morning usually gets started by children sneaking around trying to be quiet hoping to appease parental units who have set some sort of curfew about releasing noisy excitement. This year it was me kicking things off. Not so much from excitement; I just couldn’t stay in bed any longer.
The morning was fun. When the after present opening hangover set in we all decided to burn it off going for a ski. The 3″ of snow we received a few days before stuck around and was transformed by the sun and cold nights into a 2″ layer of excellent styrofoam just perfect for crust skiing. The house trails are too bumpy and in the trees to have any decent amount of snow to ski so we headed down the hill to the local airport. The grass runways are free of rocks and have been supporting early season/low snow skiing for years. It was a blast ripping around (relative to sitting around in the morning) the airport. We played freeze tag and just skied 4 abreast for about an hour.
Arriving home it was disheartening to see the trails with snow at an unskiable depth. Then it rained wiping out the airport nordic center. The rain did fill up the “pond” out behind the house. This depression gathers and hold water during the winter months and might be 20 meters long and 8 meters wide. We messed around and played some form of pond hockey. It soon dawned on me there was more snow like skate generated white stuff on the pond than on the ski trails. I Googled home snowmaking while sipping on a cup of hot chocolate. Making snow will be extra impracticable so I just might try it at some later date as we get more desperate for snow to ski on. The bridge has been decked and the frost has firmly attached any rocks to the earth so prying them loose will have to wait for summer. What to do to advance the condition of the ski trails?
There has been a 24″ diameter section of double walled plastic culvert sitting in the back yard for the better part of two months. Time to build a roller to replace the crappy blue plastic barrels I have shish-kabobbed with a piece of conduit and haul around behind the sled. It works but is too narrow and not very round. It has terrible directional stability and tends to slide downhill while traversing slopes or to the outside of turns due to the taper acting as a ski tip shovel allowing the thing to glide over the snow.
The first task for building the roller was figuring out how to support the axle inside the barrel. My friend and fellow CG, Andy, used wheels from an ATV. He stuffed the wheel assembly into the culvert, inflated the tires and ran a steel rod through the bearings. A wooden frame connects to the axle to the sled and he has a very cool roller. Seeing Andy’s roller was inspiring. I don’t have an ATV to cannibalize but I do have a pile of 1″ square steel tubing and a torch.
Using AutoCAD to divine the dimensions of the steel pieces, I set to work cutting the long stock to finished length. My bearings will be a section of plastic decking bolted to the four armed “spider” and have another piece of conduit for the axle. The spider will have stubs welded to run parallel to the long axis of the culvert. The stubs will accept bolt to keep everything together.
I hadn’t welded in a year or so and it shows. My old shop teacher must be rolling in his grave assuming he’s dead. The welds will hold despite being splattery and slightly under-filled with rod. The welds did improve as I regained some form but overall they look really fugly.
Next up is retrofitting the barrel frame to accept a 6 foot long cylindrical roller. The wider roller should reduce the number of passes I need to push the air out of the snow after it falls. I still have faith we will have a decent ski season ahead of us.