When I called Griff Granger in the afternoon after the March 27 storm dropped a foot of snow, he was, of course, snowplowing. Granger, 27 and a North Tahoe High School graduate, has been plowing in Alpine Meadows, where he grew up, for the past three years, following in his father’s footsteps. His good friend Justin Fenley, who graduated from North Tahoe with Granger, also takes after his dad, who used to plow in the Sunnyside neighborhood of Tahoe City. Fenley now plows the Rocky Ridge condominiums. What makes Granger and Fenley different from their fathers, however, is that they have become viral YouTube sensations with their snowplowing videos.
Granger, who said he has always loved heavy equipment, worked for Longo doing summer excavation and winter plowing in North Tahoe for around five years after graduating from Chico State. He decided to start filming his snowplow sessions in Alpine this winter after searching for plowing videos on YouTube.
“Most of the time the videos are in the Midwest and they get a couple inches here and there and they are plowing parking lots,” Granger said. “So I decided to start filming what we do here and show people a little bit different style of plowing. We have lots of snow and stacking ramps [which serve as snow storage]; most people haven’t ever seen anything like that.”
He posted his first video, titled CAT 938G Plowing Snow – Lake Tahoe on Jan. 5. The 34-minute video, which was filmed using a GoPro attached to the loader, shows point-of-view shots of plowing driveways in the dark of night. The video has since racked up 33,000 views and received 50 comments, like this one from Celtkin, an environmental biologist: “Master class on snowplowing. Thanks for sharing!”
But nothing prepared Granger for the popularity of his second video, Plowing DEEP Snow CAT 938G – Lake Tahoe on Jan. 11, which garnered more than 202,000 views and 209 comments. It shows him plowing tight driveways and building ramps in the early morning hours. Wayne S. commented: “That’s amazing! I live in West Texas and have never seen more than ~12” snow at once. Enjoyed watching something unique while we are 50-70° most days this week.”
“It’s crazy how much it’s blown up,” Granger said. “I wasn’t really expecting it. It’s incredible, I can go on YouTube analytics page and see where people are watching from – 50 countries or more. People are watching from all over the world.”
Of Granger’s eight videos, it was his March 4 one — PLOWING SNOW IN A BLIZZARD! Lake Tahoe, California – CAT 938G – that really went viral with 279,000 views and 309 comments. In this 25-minute video Granger even narrates while he is plowing, revealing his passion for snow removal.
“I love operating heavy equipment,” Granger told Moonshine. “Plowing is very tactical. Almost every time I plow I try something new and try to be more efficient. I enjoy helping people out and keeping roads open. I do love being right in the action in Alpine.”
Given this season is the snowiest winter on record in the past 70 years, with more than 700 inches of snow as of press time (see the story about this mega-winter’s totals, How Big Is This Season?), Granger’s job is definitely becoming harder as he is running out of places to put the snow. According to Granger, 60% to 70% of the ramps he uses for the 100 homes he services are completely full.
“We are constantly building ramps longer and bigger, we keep pushing it and pushing out the ramps until there is no more room,” said Granger, who shares responsibility of the Alpine neighborhood with his father, Tim Granger. “Now we rely heavily on the blower because that’s the only thing that can get snow over the banks right now.”
Granger uses a Caterpillar 938G Wheel Loader with a Kodiak Northwest loader-mounted snow blower, and Fenley a Caterpillar 938M Small Wheel Loader with an RPM Tech loader-mounted snowblower.
Granger encouraged Fenley, who is in his fifth season plowing at Rocky Ridge, to start posting his own snowplowing videos, even lending him a GoPro. For Fenley, who grew up watching videos about equipment to see how it worked, posting about his job on YouTube was a natural next step. He shared his first video on Jan. 21, PLOWING DEEP SNOW! Lake Tahoe – CAT 938M Opening up the roads, which has since received over 9,000 views. A few months later, on March 4, his 26-minute video PLOWING 4 FEET OF FRESH SNOW AND IT JUST KEEPS COMING! – Lake Tahoe – California – CAT 938M has been watched over 41,000 times. One viewer commented: “Really, Really enjoying watching these videos from Florida!” There is even a comment in Russian.
Why does Fenley think lifting the veil on snowplowing in Tahoe has attracted so many viewers?
“It’s a mix of a lot of talk about California and everything that’s going on, a lot of curious people, and there have also been quite a few people who have been doing snow removal in different locations,” said Fenley, who has posted six videos and two shorts. “Now that there are finally people from Tahoe [posting on YouTube], it brings more attention. We live in a very attractive place.”
Fenley and his boss are in charge of plowing the road from Highway 89 up to Rocky Ridge and all 102 driveways. Like Granger, who is planning to take over plowing from his father, Fenley intends to step in for his boss, Bill Bauder, when he retires. Fenley started plowing part-time while still in high school, running the relief shift in big storms from 3 p.m. to midnight, and has worked for several of the big snowplow operators on the North and West shores. Like Granger, Fenley loves what he does, which clearly shows in their videos.
“There is something about being out in the middle of the night, and nobody can really go anywhere until you are out there,” Fenley said. “There is something peaceful about listening to a podcast and blowing a bunch of snow. I like running heavy equipment.”