Black slopes are no obstacle for Vemdalsgrävaren's HUDDIG 1370
The mountain world's terrain and heavy jobs like lift renovation put Jocke Kristoffersson's HUDDIG machine to the test. Thanks to smart equipment and a specially designed hydraulic lock for the crane in loader, he meets the challenge of safe lift work and heavy lifting on steep ski slopes.
Jocke Kristoffersson was born and raised in Vemdalen, Northern Sweden. He grew up next to the construction company Vemdalens Åkeri, which had several different types of construction machinery. Jocke often sat in the co-driver's seat as a child. He has several good memories from that time.
"Vemdalens Åkeri had many machines; they had everything - backhoe loaders, excavators, wheel loaders. I remember sitting in the passenger seat in the cramped cabs with the drivers as a little boy. Later in life, my mother showed me a drawing in which I had written: "I will be an excavator operator when I grow up." And that dream came true."
Jocke started the Technical Engineering program in high school, and in parallel with school, he competed at a high level in cross-country skiing. His interest in skiing took over, and he dropped out of school to devote himself to skiing full-time. The investment paid off, and Jocke won two District Championship gold medals in cross-country skiing in Jämtland in tough competition with other talents.
Life took new turns after national military service ("lumpen"). Jocke ran a Circle K/ESSO gas station in Vemdalen for three years while working extra, driving excavators and construction machinery during the bare ground season. He then worked for the company Pekab, which later acquired Vemdalens Åkeri. They had many different types of assignments, and in winter, he drove a snow groomer on ski slopes and tracks. A really exciting day at work was when Volvo France contacted them for help with an advertising photo shoot of their cars.
"Volvo contacted us to do a photoshoot - in the middle of the mountain world. We custom-built sleds to pull the Volvo cars up the mountain. Getting up the mountain with a regular car was unthinkable. First, we built fake roads for them to drive on during the shoot. So, we created real winter roads in an authentic mountain environment, far up in the mountains you can barely reach. Then we pulled Volvo's cars up on our specially built sleds and solved all kinds of peripheral work that photographers and filmmakers needed to get done. It was a great time in my life."
Jocke continued with his life as a snow groomer operator. He started driving snow groomers all year round and moved around to follow the winter. He worked one season in Canada and also got a job in New Zealand.
"I drove snow groomers in beautiful New Zealand. Their seasons are opposite to ours; when we have summer, they have winter, so it was perfect for me. It was awesome. I wanted to move there permanently, but I met my wife when I was home in Sweden for a while and stayed in Vemdalen.”
Until 2002, Jocke combined jobs as a snow groomer and excavator operator. Then it was time to take the leap and start his own company.
"I bought an excavator loader and started working with Vemdalens Åkeri. Work on the ski slopes is also needed during the summer. Since I knew the slopes inside and out, I got full occupancy right from the start. It was a great relief for me as a newly self-employed person."
After a few years, an upgrade became a HUDDIG 1160D, and since then, Jocke has had a HUDDIG 1260B, a HUDDIG 1260C, a HUDDIG 1260D, and in October 2022, he got a brand new HUDDIG 1370 delivered. The HUDDIG machine's unique off-road properties combined with it’s power and stability make it the obvious choice for Jocke when driving on hard-to-reach ski slopes.
"I run my machine where it is extremely steep. A HUDDIG is strong and stable and it fits perfectly for driving on steep slopes. The hydrostatic drive is excellent for these kinds of jobs. The people who design and build it know what they're doing, and the HUDDIG 1370 is the pinnacle of the HUDDIG line of machines."
Jocke's machine is fully equipped with a Palfinger crane in loader and he also has a special locking system for the crane. He uses the front loader for many different things. The speed and strength combined with the front loader raising quickly make a HUDDIG ideal for both excavation and snow removal.
"Compared to most front loaders, it's pretty damn fast – you raise it in no time - the working pressure and hydraulics are outstanding. The slewing torque is also incredibly valuable."
The machine is put to the test when renovating ski lifts, an important job with extremely high safety requirements.
"Renovating the lifts is a big responsibility. There are a lot of lifts in Vemdalen, so we start before the snow is gone and take down the roller racks, and we will be done in the middle of summer. All drive wheels where the cable runs are dismantled and serviced in the workshop, and we change axles and bearings at regular intervals. It's really heavy stuff to handle.”
Establishing a safe and functional working method has been challenging, as each part to be dismantled weighs between one and three tons.
"The first year, we tried using a mobile crane, but it didn't even work on the children's slopes, which have a slight incline. Winching them down also takes a very long time. A crane in loader on my HUDDIG became an option, but it must stand in balance to comply with safety requirements, which was impossible.”
Something new was needed. The truck workshop Vemservice, which usually builds cranes on trucks, solved the problem with a hydraulic lock.
"Vemservice made a solution that locks the front loader with a hydraulic piston instead of mechanically. That means I can stand on a black slope with the HUDDIG while the crane tilts and stands flat. I tilt with the front loader and lock it with the extra hydraulic piston."
Jocke also has a Waldung trolley that is used extensively. The original idea was to carry buckets and tools on it, but now lift parts are loaded directly onto the nine-ton trailer.
"Trolley steering is excellent; you can maneuver it and cram the trolley in almost anywhere, even in cramped and difficult places. I have no brakes on the trolley, so the HUDDIG has to brake, but it works fine, given that the operation works so incredibly well. Setting the suitable mode with the power switch for the automatic gas, i.e., constant gas, locks the transmission. If you release the throttle, you have full engine braking and never disengage the hydraulics. That is a tip I would like to pass on to other HUDDIG drivers who drive on steep slopes and want to use the engine braking efficiently."
One of the big balancing acts on the slopes is when Jocke performs various service jobs with a person's basket on the crane in the loader. At full extension, it is essential to have nerves of steel, both for the machine operator and the person standing in the basket about 24 meters up in the air.
"We use the Palfinger with a basket to send as little weight as possible up high for different service jobs. I put the front loader to equilibrium to keep the balance and stability, whether we are on a slope or not. If the hill is steep, you also do not have to stand in the middle of the ropes because the poles are on the side of the slope. We can hoist the basket approximately 24 meters into the air. I can guarantee butterflies in the stomach when you look down from up there!”
With his Palfinger, Jocke can get to hard-to-reach places where a helicopter would otherwise be needed.
"In some locations and on some jobs, I have replaced a helicopter. It's great that my solution works so well.”
For a contractor, a machine in operation is everything. Joakim's customers are impressed by the minimal standing time and appreciate his ability to solve problems, which he says is based on a good relationship with service providers and dealers.
"Staffare in Hudiksvall are excellent. They are always 100% committed, and arrive in no time if there is a crisis. They are professional and simply outstandingly good. When I had a problem with my last machine, service support solved it quickly on Midsummer's Eve. That's what I call service! Thanks to that support, it's extremely rare that I stand still with my machine."
Joakim has worked full-time on the slopes since 1988. Thirty-four years later, he feels he still has the best job in the world and is constantly learning new things. Among other things, he is looking forward to transporting a new cabin up in the mountain.
"I will drive HUDDIG as long as I can! I'm never bored because I'm never fully educated. Challenges spur me on, and that's what makes my job fun. There are plenty of problems to solve, and finding solutions to new situations gives me energy and motivation. When we have demolished the old cabin and transported the new one up in the mountain, we will celebrate with waffles cooked on the open fire. That's life and a perfect day at work for me!", Jocke concludes.
Photos and video: Kenneth Grym, Destination Vemdalen