Grinders v. Snow People
By Paul RaymoreJamie Bate, my editor and boss, recently took a giant leap toward becoming a true “Truckee local.”No, he didn’t get arrested for a DUI. Nor did he blow out his knee, go in for arthroscopic surgery, and come out with the always-fashionable “Truckee tattoo.”Rather, upon returning to his snow-covered home after holiday storms had dropped a couple feet of heavy snow on the town, Jamie made a purchase that would make any Truckee resident proud. He bought his first snowblower – a new Honda HS724TA.With 6.5 horse power, a 24-inch auger width, and the ability to throw snow a full 46 feet, according to Honda’s Web site, Jamie’s new snowblower is a fine and capable machine.In the interest of full disclosure though, and to satisfy that seemingly biological need American men have to compete in the acquisition of power tools and motorized toys, I must point out that my snowblower, a Honda HS928TA, is (A) more powerful – 8.5 horses baby!; (B) larger, 28-inch auger width; and (C) capable of throwing snow 49 feet, a full three feet further than Jamie’s puny machine.But I digress.Getting back to the point of this column: Owning a snowblower seems to bring out one of two distinct personality traits in Truckee folks. Either you are a Grinder or a Powder Person.Now the Powder People are those who, like myself, think that eight inches of fresh snow means it’s time to go skiing, and will happily summon as much torque and power as their vehicle will provide in order to plow through the accumulated snow in their driveway and the three-foot berm at the road and make it to their favorite resort in time for first tracks on a powder day. For Powder People, snowblowing is best done in the late afternoon when the ski hill is tracked out.Grinders, on the other hand, are those hardy folks who are outside in their driveways, starting up their snowblowers, after a mere two inches of snow has fallen. These are the men – and I say men because I have a feeling that there are few women who share this compulsion – who won’t rest until every single snowflake has been removed from the little patch of pavement they call their own.Sometimes I get the impression that these men judge themselves by how quickly they can clear their driveways. Indeed, it often seems like a race among my neighbors to see whose driveway will not only be clear of snow, but will actually have dry pavement showing first.In fact I’m sure that somewhere, sometime, a Grinder’s ego has been so crushed by the sight of his neighbor’s driveway being clear of snow before his that he has immediately gotten in his truck, driven to Truckee Rents, and upgraded to the largest Honda snowblower that credit can buy, just so he would never again have to be outside blowing after his neighbor had finished.But again, I’m getting off topic.Now I first noticed the distinction between Grinders, named after the sound made by their snowblowers scraping along bare pavement, and Powder People during my first winter living in Glenshire, which also happened to be the first winter that I owned a snowblower (Actually two, but really who’s counting?).I put myself solidly in the Powder People category, and the three-inch-thick layer of ice built up on my driveway is there to prove it. However, it took the first big storm of the 2002-03 season to illustrate to me how different I was from many of my neighbors.I believe said storm happened to be on a weekend, or a Friday, or some other day I could easily take off work and go skiing (because honestly, who doesn’t spend a couple hours clearing their driveway if it’ll get you out of going to work). So my wife and I loaded up the Jeep and drove through the 10 inches of fresh snow that had blanketed our driveway overnight.Of course, I was a relative newbie to the art of snowblowing, and thus had no idea that my senseless act of driving over the fresh snow would compact it down into a two-inch layer of impermeable crust that even my trusty Honda HS928TA (which can clear a full 4.1 tons more snow per hour than Jamie’s machine, in case you were curious) would have trouble with.So the wife and I drive by our neighbors, who are all outside diligently blowing their driveways, and think “What are they doing that for?”Now don’t get me wrong, I get the allure of snowblowing: The power, the noise, the smooth arc of snow traveling a full 49 feet when it’s at the right consistency. It’s truly a beautiful thing. So I can understand why some guys love to do it so much.But passing up first tracks on a powder day? That’s just insane.So off we went skiing. And when we returned seven hours later I was expecting to find I had another hour of work ahead of me clearing off our driveway.Instead we returned to find our driveway – all 200 feet of it – largely clear of snow. Except of course for the two tracks of compacted ice left by our drive out that morning.Apparently, one or two of our Grinder neighbors were either so thoughtful and kind that they wanted to help out, or else they were so compulsive that they saw any snowflake sitting in any driveway – even if it wasn’t theirs – as an affront to all that is good in the universe, that they cleared our driveway for us. Personally, I tend to believe the former of my wonderful neighbors.So I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those neighbors (who shall remain nameless lest I embarrass them) from the bottom of my powder-loving heart, and to acknowledge that the world is a better place because of Grinders like you.Paul Raymore is the Sierra Sun’s resident powder hound. In his spare time he covers a variety of beats. Contact him at email@example.com.