I tend to take an interest in snow making, to the degree that if I see a story about it odds are I’m going to read it. This stems, I imagine, from several years when I was a reporter covering the Mount Washington Valley, where snow making is an important element to overall economic well-being.
I can’t say I remember many details about its history or how it works, other than that you need temperatures to be cold. It works even when the days are warmer than usual for winter, as long as the nights stay cold enough.
But, as you may have read in the Record-Journal recently, it hasn’t been that way, at least not often enough, so far this winter season, and that obviously has presented a challenge to the local ski areas, Mount Southington and Powder Ridge, in Middlefield.
Of course, Mother Nature remains the best system when it comes to snow making. You may remember a storm of February 2013, when you went to bed one night and woke up to 35 inches of snow, if you were in Wallingford, and 30 inches if you were in Cheshire. That was a remarkable display of snow-making prowess that remarkably did not add up to a record. That belongs to a storm in 1888, when snowfall around these parts came in at 40 to 50 inches. There was a headline in the Meriden Daily Journal that said: “Scores of People Taken Out of the Drifts Monday Night.”
Those were the days. And you have to remember that when it came to advanced warning there were no orbiting satellites. There were also no motorized snow plows.
So we could say we’re a lot more prepared, but lately there hasn’t been much reason to be. A recent headline in the Record-Journal declared: “Local ski slopes grapple with a warmer winter season thus far.”
That’s putting it mildly. There hasn’t been much snow, at least of the type supplied by the aforementioned Mother Nature, and snow making has been challenged. As the R-J’s Christian Metzger reported a few days ago, snowfall totals locally are 50% lower than average. Temperatures have also been tough when it comes to making snow and keeping it on the slopes.
“It just hasn’t been conducive this time of year,” said Gary Lessor, a meteorologist at Western Connecticut State University. Usually, the devices that are pumping out snow are working, as Lessor put it, from “sunset to sunrise. And that hasn’t been the case.”
Weather has been beating technology. Sean Hayes, of Powder Ridge, said with snow-making ability “we can blanket this mountain in three to four days pretty heavily. We just didn’t get ahead of it enough in that one-week cold snap, to get a base down where we would survive the winter.”
Despite all this there has been reason for encouragement, which comes down to simple enthusiasm. Despite the conditions, people are still coming out to the ski areas. I look at it as a positive sign that people are ready for community after the years of isolation brought on by the pandemic.
“The past couple of weeks have been very difficult for us,” said Hayes. “But even last night, the conditions weren’t great, but it is about the community coming out. And I gotta tell you, I was absolutely amazed last night looking at this mountain.”
My guess is the enthusiasm will stick around, and be ready when Mother Nature decides to be more cooperative.
Reach Jeffery Kurz at firstname.lastname@example.org.