Let it blow, let it blow
So what’s your favorite holiday? Mine’s Halloween. That’s because at midnight on Halloween night, the witching hour as it were, the graveyard shift (how appropriate is that?) ignite the snow blowers on Aspen Mountain and commence making magic in the form of snow. If you see eight to 10 folks dressed like snowmakers (what do snowmakers wear?), they will be the real thing, not costumed characters taking part in the contests. These guys, under the direction of Aspen Mountain trail director Steve Fischer, or the “God of All Snow,” as I will reverentially refer to him from now until eternity, will be heading up the hill to unleash the guns of winter and lay down a carpet of white for all to see.In a tradition reminiscent of the Midnight Madness basketball practices on college campuses that kick off the collegiate hoops season, the Aspen Skiing Co., minus the pomp and circumstance, flips a switch seconds after October turns to November and fluff flies in the night. The timing is mandated not so much by weather, but rather by the billing cycles of Holy Cross Energy. Nonetheless there is certain poetry to Nov. 1 being the first day of blown snow.This year the Skico has new equipment to help it do the job. They have acquired a number of new SMI Super Polecat blowers. These are the real deal; they are the Ferrari of snowmaking equipment. Here’s what the website says about them: “The Polecats use a 20 or 25 HP fan for a big throw and 30 nozzles that you can customize to achieve water flows specific to your climate. These 30 nozzles are nucleated with a single central six-jet nucleator nozzle. Water adjustment is easy with four heated self-draining valves.”Big throw, nucleator nozzle, self draining valves. It makes me hot for hitting the hill just reading this stuff. If you want to see them, they are sitting, shiny and new, at the base of the Shadow Mountain lift as of this writing.Fischer, who has been working the snow-blowing machinery for 18 years, says that the focus this season will be on getting the Woman’s World Cup courses ready for the Dec. 7-9 races. Work will begin at the top of the FIS lift and down through Ruthie’s. The downhill course this year will bypass Aztec.As it gets colder they will move further down the mountain. The snow they blow initially will be a “Race Base” and will be “super wet and sloppy snow” according to Fischer. The higher the water content the better for a race course.When they move the machines around or use the other elements of their snow-making systems they will dry the snow out a bit more. “You want to able to just make a snowball out of it” Fischer says referring to the consistency they want for recreational runs. Fischer says the guys who make the snow get as excited as I do about kicking off the big blow. “I shouldn’t say this,” he says “but we try and lay down some snow on the lower mountain so people get excited.” It worked for me, Oh God of All Snow.Maybe Halloween is your holiday too.
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