Monday, April 27, 2009

Flurries awards: snowmaking of the year

My first year in the Twin Cities, 2002-2003, we needed fake snow. The first skiable snow was in February, before that we had a week on the lakes and, otherwise, it was browner than brown. A few guns could have pumped out some "powder" since it was cold, but there were very few options, and none were nearby or cross-country specific.

I grew up with a luxury beyond luxuries: manmade snow five minutes from home. Okay, so anyone who knows Weston Ski Track knows that it is far from luxury, but with a dedicated team of snowmakers, four or five guns and a nice, brown river flowing by (when manmade snow is made on new snow, the colour difference is impressive) they consistently have skiing from December through March, even with Boston's fickle climate.

In 2002, the options were far more limited. Trollhaugen had just started offering their slopes to skiers, and Hyland was open from 7-9 in the a.m. Buck Hill would set a bit of a classic track around their base in the mornings too. Still, my memories of waking up for practice at 6 a.m. because we had to make the best of things at Hyland were not pleasant.

It's amazing what a difference six years makes. We now have Elm Creek, which has probably overtaken Weston as the best snowmaking near a city. We also have the snowmaking at Wirth Park, which is closer and has, in my opinion, better terrain than Elm Creek. However, Wirth has a bit to learn about making snow. (In my opinion, Weston is by far the best I've seen. They can have four hours of temperatures below 28 and pump out a significant amount of snow in that time, which often means the difference between skiing and not skiing.) Until Wirth can get things better, like making enough of a base to last through meltdowns, touching up areas which are thin or dirty, and bridging low spots so that they don't wash out, Elm Creek will win this award hands down. I do hope, however, that Wirth gets its act together; they better have a nice thick base to last in to march for JOs in 2011.

If the COLNF can master snowmaking and lengthen the course (John Swain had mentioned commandeering a manure spreader in the winter and using it to spread a trail) it will likely be the best snowmaking around, and probably a candidate to host some high-level races. I'd be all for it.

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