This season could not get any weirder, so when Wachusett Mountain Marketing Director Tom Meyers challenged skiers and snowboarders to come up there and hug a snowmaker or kiss a groomer, it actually made sense.
They have been the true stars this season.
"We were just encouraging everyone to recognize the impact the snowmaking and grooming departments have had on the 2011-2012 season so far," Meyers said. "The second half of the winter is historically the snowiest but, whether it snows or not, the snowmakers and groomers have already firmly established themselves as the heroes who have helped rescue this season. With barely a flake of natural snow … the mountain is open with terrain for all ability levels and base depths ranging 22 to 38 inches."
How good was the surface last week? The first few turns were eye-openers. There was plenty of snow under the skis and the quality felt decent — not at all like machine-made snow.
It was fun — amazing for a mountain that far south, just north of Worcester in Princeton, MA.
The day was good. Period.
“We are very proud of all our employees, but the snowmakers and groomers work totally behind the scenes and don’t always receive any recognition,” Wachusett President Jeff Crowley said. “We always tell our guests if they don’t see snow in their back yard, that doesn’t mean we don’t have snow here.
"That couldn’t be more true this year. Next time one of our guests sees one of our snowmakers or groomers at work, we encourage them to stop and shake their hand or give them a hug because none of this would be here without them. We are frequently told we have some of the best snow conditions in New England.”
The snowmaking crew is known around Wachusett circles as the “Department of Mother Nature,” but it is made up of some pretty tough guys and the thought of a 6-foot-3 245-pound snow sports writer offering hugs and kisses was enough to make them hide in the garage.
The PistenBully grooming machine parked nearby didn't seem to mind a show of affection, however.
The crews at Wachusett have been essentially working around the clock since early November every time temperatures permit.
The groomers hit the slopes twice each day — laying down a fresh carpet of corduroy surfaces for both the day and evening sessions. In fact, Wachusett is one of the only ski areas in New England that offers grooming two times a day.
The ski area uses the latest in state-of-the-art snowmaking technology — the efficient HKD tower snow guns. Wachusett had more than 200 spread throughout its trails.
The grooming fleet represents an investment of more than a $1.5 million, including six grooming machines from both Prinoth and PistenBully.
The snowmakers and groomers come from all walks of life. Nearly a dozen snowmakers or groomers work in or own landscaping businesses in the off-season. They are also firefighters, construction workers, welders and even a couple of business executives who groom in their spare time. They all have close connections to the mountain and many are husbands or sons of other Wachusett employees.
The snowmaking crew does most of its work when skiers and snowboarders are at home — usually blowing snow in the colder overnight hours.
And last week was a perfect example of that. When the crews finished their work and the lifts started turning, the surface was a true canvas — more than ready for the skis to paint a pretty good picture.
Yes, Wachusett is a true work of art this season when there has been very little to work with.