This is the season, this is the quote. This is from Macker. He is the master of snowmaking at Platty. Now this could be a conversation that includes phrases like “wet-bulb temperature” (relating to humidity) and “inversion” (warmth in the upper atmosphere) both of which have taken a toll on snowmaking across the Northeast. Or, there’s the more commonly bandied “El Nino” (which sounds to me about like an armed bandit right now).
But, at Platty there is snow. A mountain of it. And, trails. And, the reason is not those big words but the heroes on the hill, working in the middle of the night. This is Macker’s team. Normally they’d start in the evening and leave in the morning whales of snow in their wake, but this year because of the inversion, because of the wet-bulb temperature, because of El Nino, they’ve been beginning at times like 2 AM to catch that window when the temperature drops to freezing.
To return to Macker here (BTW he’s a man who says “I am happiest when I’m making snow and pushing it around,” – also to note he’s a man of few words, and those are generally bitten down and he relishes riding alone in a groomer with no one else around – “watching waves of people walking into the parking lot skis on their shoulder.”) So he has been worried and says it was so warm it felt like November, and that perhaps the world needs a leap month, that is how crazy the weather has been. He also says, “You can make snow at 32 degrees. You just get less of it. It’s not that it’s too warm, but you get way less production.”
He thinks not just about Platty but every other hill. (He is also not one to pick and choose his words carefully even for the mountain blog—eg he is hones and in his honestly talks about everywhere is suffering). “For every ski area Christmas is a third of the season, a third of the income…” His voice trails off and he talks of the impact on hills and employees and the snow. In Vermont Magic Mountain has only just opened this weekend, and Mad River Glen, whose die-hards are like Platty fanatics, did a video in December about “Skiing the Patch" (That is advertising skiing the 3 patches of snow on their hill).
Laszlo, Platty’s owner, walks in the office, talk of that year and talks of one year that was worse. 1995. He was not even 30 and it was his second year of ownership. Macker came to help out and the New York Times came to pay a call. The season before had record snowfall. That year Platty was the only ski area not afraid to talk on the record.
It was January 19, nothing was opened in the East. Back then, 21 years ago, the hill had 7 guns, and virtually no snowmaking. But they got a headling in the TIMES: "Ski Areas Suffer from an Endless Summer." Now Plattekill has a couple hundred guns plus the requisite blood, sweat and tears (and water pumped up of a less saline quality from ponds) to run them. Instead of standing on a grassy hill, Macker and Laz are here in mountains of snow. Thanks to a few heroes who are cheering on winter and giving it a helping hand.
- This map. It’s been settling arguments in the bar about length and descent since 1972. It’s beautiful. James Niehues eat your heart out.
- No lift lines. …and even if one does form, it’s so convivial that you’d hardly notice.
- Cheers. You wanna go to a place where everybody knows your name. It’s that “Norm!” moment when your ski buddies shout your name from the chairlift.
- It’s family run. If you don’t bump into Laszlo or Danielle in the lodge, you might see them on the slopes and they’ll be happy to ski with you. And now the next generation of Vajtays is stepping up to help out with snowmaking and snow tubing.
- This guy. Steve Supp – he keeps it real in his Carhartt overalls and thrift store skis (price sticker intact).
- Snow (outside). Plattekill is frequently blessed with the natural stuff, and even when it isn’t, Macker and his team do heroic things with a couple hundred snow guns.
- Snow (inside). The majestic bark creature that watches over the bar. Snow is actually a pretty good skier – look closely and you’ll see Snow favors some pretty old skool 2x4 skis.
- Free Heelers. Plattekill is the only hill where you’ll see more than one tele skier at a time, which is why we’ve coined a collective noun for them. It’s a “curtsy” of teleskiers.
- The Lodge Bar. What’s better after a big day skiing than one of those Polish beers with the funny name that only Laszlo can pronounce? Yeah, one of those please.
- The People. Which is really a thousand more reasons – the familiar faces we see only during ski season. This season has been a long time coming and we’ve been missing them. As someone put it today “whether there’s snow or not it’s good to see everyone again – it’s social”
Not so fast, you Debbie Downers! There is no conclusive data from ANY weather source regarding El Nino years. Some reports say that we’ll have below average snowfalls and other reports are indicating a much higher than average snowfall. I’ve heard that someone coined a phrase for those who “wish” we’d see a snowfall – “wishcasting.” Yup, that’s what we’re doing here at Plattekill a lot of WISHCASTING!
So, we’re going to keep things positive … there are reports out there that the things we termed last year … such as the Polar Vortex is moving into a position that will bring cold air to the East. And a couple years ago, we talked about Arctic Oscillation (2009-10) which just dumped snow on us – YAY Artic Oscillation!
So, don’t give up hope. The report is now that a more favorable weather pattern is heading our way! Our snowmakers are ON IT! Temps are already starting to drop and we will resume “Operation Snowstorm” tonight here at the mountain and be ready for the upcoming Martin Luther King Weekend holiday!
Check out what The Weather Channel reported about the potential for Eastern SNOW …