(Photo credit: Ken Mack)
This has been a rough week for snowmakers of the Northeast. To say the least. The very least. With temperatures hovering around freezing, the precipitation is indecisive, switching back and forth between being a solid and a liquid. Flood warnings in January for 12-24 hours are also never a good sign. But, we were tricked by some awesome natural snow and cold temperatures courtesy of Mother Nature. Snow fell early and often, and the relentless deep freeze allowed snowmaker alchemists to work their magic all over Loon Mountain along with our favorite rope tow in town, the Kanc.
Thanks to the cooperation of Mother Nature and team work provided by hardworking snowmaking crews, Loon Mountain has been in perfect condition for the thousands of skiers and riders who visit each weekend. Then the rains came. At this writing, the rain is pouring down from the sky, making the night darker, the pavement “slushy-er”, and our mountains wetter. Our children’s favorite midweek activity, Kanc Carvers (the Lin-Wood High School Ski Team mentors elementary students interested in ski racing), was even canceled due to the Kanc Rope Tow being closed, and they NEVER close unless the conditions are really bad.
Our town boasts of some pretty amazing snowmakers who work tirelessly, often around the clock, to make sure we have good snow to slide on. One of our favorites is Loon Mountain’s Ken Mack; with years of snowmaking under his belt, he has weathered his fair share of rain and sleet and wind and ice, along with some snow now than then. He shared some wisdom with me recently that I think the larger ski industry, but more importantly, THEIR CUSTOMERS, should RECOGNIZE AND APPRECIATE. “Making snow for a season is a lesson in persistence, resilience, and determination. The snow may be man made, but nature controls its consistency…and when we can and can’t produce it. It’s like being a kid at the beach working really hard on a sand castle, then one wave swoops up and takes it away. The bad part is your hard work is destroyed, the good part is the sand is nice and wet so you can make a new one! In today’s ‘have it now’ society, we expect packed powder at the push of a button. We’re close to that but it takes about 72 hours with 20 snowmakers and groomers before it starts to get better. In the end it will all melt and disappear. The only tangible results from snowmaking will be memorable family vacations and hopefully a strong local economy.”
That sandcastle analogy. It can be good, good, good, but when the rainy weather suddenly strikes, the good is washed away literally overnight and only our snowmakers can make it better. These snow alchemists are reliable, trustworthy, and dedicated to the land, but even these snow experts who understand the power and science behind snowmaking, even they cannot overpower Mother Nature; she ultimately still runs the show when it comes to our conditions.
Aaron Loukes, Lin-Wood teacher, coach of the HS ski team, and assistant director of the Loon Race Team, believes our snowmakers are, “The hardest working group of people on the mountain. I travel around the state going to races and Loon has the best snow anywhere. That is due to the pride that snowmakers have in what they do.”
Geoff Krill, Loon Mountain’s training director for the Snow Sports School, is also kind of obsessed with the work snowmakers do, mostly because he is passionate about snow in general. “Snowmakers are the essence of Ullr (God of snow from Norse mythology). They embrace and conquer the perils of snow and ice that we can all benefit from the bounty they bring back to the community. We should thank them every day.”
The Kanc lost its primary snowmaker and groomer, Dave Dovholuk, this past year and others are taking over where he left off after decades of making and moving around snow mirroring the pride he, along with this community, feels in the Kanc Recreation Area. Thank you to Jake Belanger, Ryan Smith, and Nate Hadaway, and I’m sure countless others who are making the magic happen with snowmaking and grooming at the Kanc. We know Dave is up there in heaven in some serious negotiations with Mother Nature about sending some snow our way. Until then and always— thank your snowmakers and groomers, the real life Ullr snow gods of our ski world.