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The New Guy's Perspective: Making It Snow

December 29, 2013 9:00am tngp home winter

Do you remember those old Nike commercials featuring Bo Jackson? "Bo Knows Football", "Bo Knows Basketball", "Bo Knows Baseball" and so on and so on. As a child of the 80's, Bo was one of my favorite athletes because he was awe inspiring. He was a real life superhero who could do pretty much anything on any playing field. And he was basically unstoppable in Super Tecmo Bowl, but I digress. I bring up Bo because when I was a kid I wanted to know everything, just like Bo did. But I'd always get reminded that "Sometimes, you have to be smart enough to know what you don't know." Wise words, I think, and certainly applicable now, especially when it comes to snowmaking. Sure, I think I have some basic concepts down: When temperatures allow, you run compressed air and water through a gun (tower, fan, etc.), which crystallizes when it hits the cold dry air, and comes out as snow. Then you keep doing it until you have enough, then you groom it out and then we get to go out and tear it up.

But then, I talk to our Director of Mountain Ops (Jason Lefebvre - a guy who, probably to his liking, never gets the spotlight but a guy who deserves it more than anyone) and I realize that there's way more to snowmaking than just blasting air and water through a gun. Jason's got years and years of experience here at Burke and knows his stuff. One of the things he knows is that you've gotta have a strategy. So, I dug in a little deeper with Jason on our snowmaking strategy this season, and wanted to share it with you. 

Words from the man:

"In terms of strategy for this year, early on in the snowmaking season we made a decision to go for quality terrain rather than quantity of terrain. In the past, we would make the minimum amount of snow on a trail and then move on to another so that we could get the most amount of terrain open as quickly as possible. Based on my experience, if we would have executed that older strategy this year and not spent so much time on the trails we did, it's highly likely that we would have even less terrain open than we do now due to last week's weather event. Man, that thing was a snow killer - three days of heavy rain, warm temps and fog. From my past experience, that would've basically destroyed a thinly covered trail - I mean, you saw what happened to all the natural snow stuff that was open prior to it. The fact that we spent extra time on trails like Upper and Lower Willoughby is what I think allowed us to weather that storm (pardon the pun). 

Believe me when I say that unless there's an issue with our system, we're making snow somewhere. We've got the lower mountain mostly done, we've created a terrain based learning area for the Snow Sports crew and we just finished up Dashney so that they were able to get a park built for the holidays. Now we're up to Open Slope, finishing up there and moving up to the Dippers and Carriage Road so we can get another route down from the Summit. Then, it'd be kinda nice if Mother Nature gave us a little boost, which it looks like we might get here soon.   

If anyone asks, let them know that our snowmaking team is working as hard as they can to provide a quality product for everyone. They work a lot of long, cold nights to get this place going."

In other words, Jason Knows Snowmaking.

No matter what resort, and no matter what pocket of the country in which you happen to be, if you want to know something about a mountain, find out who the Mountain Ops Director is and try your hardest to grab 5 minutes of their time. You'll be amazed at what they can teach you. 

See ya on the hill,

Andrew