HEROES OF THE NIGHT: SNOW GROOMERS AND THEIR DRIVERS

There’s a lot happening on the slopes at night. You really shouldn’t be skiing where the snow groomers are preparing the snow for the next day – it’s dangerous.

The snow groomers trek over the pistes at night and ensure optimal snow conditions. The machines operating here are pretty heavy pieces of equipment. At the front there’s a three-piece blade which pushes the snow, then caterpillar tracks with chains which roll the snow flat, and a tiller pulled along at the back which draws fine, regular furrows in the snow.

A bulldozer like this can go up to 20km per hour. Where the pistes are particularly steep (the gradient is around 70 percent in the steepest places), a tow rope makes things easier. The tow rope – an enormous metal cable – takes the weight off the machine so it can move more easily.

Of course, the piste machines don’t drive themselves – they also need to be operated. One of the drivers is Elmar Lechleitner. He steers his snow groomer over the steepest slopes of the Silvretta Arena.

There’s a lot to be taken into consideration when you’re working with the snow groomer: the right amount of snow, the right depth, and making sure everything’s properly prepared. Driving a snow groomer is a lonely job. The driver turns the radio on from time to time. When it grows light, the snow groomers drive back into the garage. And only wake up again when all the people have disappeared from the piste.