Heroes of the night
It's 3 o'clock in the morning. The Pistenbully team is travelling over dense snow to Grindelwald-First. The snow has already started in the afternoon and there is 15 cm of fresh snow on the slopes. The men sit in their machines and drive to their assigned areas. The fresh snow is soft. The task of preparing the slopes perfectly is difficult today.
Giving the best, whatever the weather
Just as the weather forecast predicted, the snowfall slowly subsides. The Pistenbullys move track by track, and gradually the slopes become visible again. Pascal Hallauer sits in one of the powerful vehicles and hopes that the sky clears up as quickly as possible. Thus, the temperatures will fall and the slopes will become even harder before the first winter athletes make their marks. Dawn slowly approaches, night turns to day and the Pistenbully drivers finish their work. The first winter sports enthusiasts are already sitting in the gondolas and are looking forward to a perfect day in the snow-covered ski area.
Depending on the weather, the slope preparation can be easier or trickier. With sufficient snow and cold temperatures, the slopes can be prepared as desired. However, if it gets warmer or if there is rain, it is often difficult and the slopes cannot be perfectly prepared even with the greatest effort. This is just as frustrating for the machinists as it is for the guests. If the slopes are not perfect, it is certainly not due to the will or ability of the machinists, but the fact that it is simply no longer possible in difficult weather conditions.
No normal working hours
In good weather, the slope preparation starts shortly after the last slope check. By 2 o'clock in the morning, the work is usually done. However, if fresh snow falls, the pistes are not prepared until the second half of the night, so that skiers and snowboarders encounter a well groomed slope in the morning despite the snowfall. For Pistenbully drivers, regular working hours are the exception; this only happens when the first snow falls and the area is still closed. Then the Pistenbully drivers work during the day. They drive up in the morning, break the snow and return to the valley in the evening. Once the area is open, the preparation team must be very flexible and set their work and sleeping times according to the weather forecast.
Although great flexibility is required, Pascal Hallauer loves his job and describes it as extremely fascinating:
"I'm on the mountain, everyone is skiing. You wait for the slopes to close, take the machine and start to prepare your area. For me it's like freedom. Of course, I have my job to do, but actually I'm free. I have the whole mountain to myself and can enjoy the view and the vastness. At work, I experience moments that you cannot even dream about. I think of the beautiful views with sunsets or the animals that cross the path. You can probably compare this with Australian truckers. The vastness is simply the greatest. For me, working on First means freedom. A lot has to go wrong for me not to look forward to going to work. The job really gives me so much."
Build jumps - then test them
The second great passion of the 25-year-old is skiing. He is on his skis practically every day before or after work, mostly in the park. As a Pistenbully driver, he is primarily responsible for the freestyle park. He tests the jumps he builds with the Pistenbully himself. He quickly notices what works and what does not. If necessary, the jumps in the evening are improved by the Pistenbully. Hallauer is already on his fourth winter season on First and he is still passionate about it: "Shaping a park is something you have to love doing. Sometimes you see variations or possibilities that you would not see if you treat it as just a job."