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SAVMI: World€™s Best Independent Snowcat Mechanics Program?

OK, that’s a trick question. SAVMI, the Ski Area Vehicle Mechanics Institute, is likely the only such program anywhere. Where else can groomer mechanics learn about Tier 4 mechanics, oil analysis, tire and track maintenance, plus electrical and hydraulic troubleshooting? And that’s why its 30th annual Conference and Trade show drew 312 attendees, including more than 200 resort personnel from 49 resorts (comprising 13 states and three countries) and representatives from 47 supplier companies to the Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction, Colo., May 18-21.

OK, that’s a trick question. SAVMI, the Ski Area Vehicle Mechanics Institute, is likely the only such program anywhere. Where else can groomer mechanics learn about Tier 4 mechanics, oil analysis, tire and track maintenance, plus electrical and hydraulic troubleshooting? And that’s why its 30th annual Conference and Trade show drew 312 attendees, including more than 200 resort personnel from 49 resorts (comprising 13 states and three countries) and representatives from 47 supplier companies to the Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction, Colo., May 18-21. 

This year’s program spent a lot of time on Tier 4 Final technology, as engines with it will begin to show up in snowcats (and other diesel-powered vehicles) over the next few years. Tier 4 brings new considerations to the maintenance game, as several speakers noted. With the cost of the new all-in-one emission control systems hitting $12,000, for example, protecting them becomes a much bigger priority. There were plenty of hands-on sessions, too, at the Prinoth, Zaugg, and PistenBully shops in Grand Junction, and several diagnostics and troubleshooting classes at the Convention Center.

But SAVMI is also about networking, with several roundtable sessions in addition to the hands-on classes offering opportunities to share information and solutions. For example, Jacob Babcock, the mechanic for recently-reopened and community-oriented White Pine Ski Area in Wyoming, got plenty of advice and insight, not to mention an English-language manual, for his two temperamental PistenBully 280 machines. For the past year, he had relied on his own knowledge of diesel equipment and a German-language manual. Examples like that demonstrate the extraordinary depth and breadth of information available at SAVMI.

SAVMI also handed out several awards of note at the conference. Among them: George Pena of Beaver Creek, Colo., one of SAVMI’s founding members, received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Winter Park, Colo., earned the SAVMI Safety Award for going 5,152 days (and counting) without a work-related injury. Mechanic Kevin Gastonguay of Mt. Rose, Nev., received the “tech of the year” prize, known more formally as the Tim Krause Memorial Award. Kevin Keppler of Prinoth took the award for Tech Support of the Year.

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