Tom Clyde: Buy a snow maker a cookie
We all witnessed something of a miracle this week. The ski resorts were open, skiing was good, and people were happy. A little natural storm came through and covered up the brown, but there was nothing natural about what we were skiing on. That was pretty much all man-made snow. Without it, things would be quite different around here this year. We could make left turns.
The resorts have made huge investments in snow making over the years to protect themselves from winters like this. It was a snow-less winter like this, back in the mid-70’s, that resulted in a firesale of the Park City resort. You don’t miss Christmas in the ski resort business and live to tell about it. So they spent a fortune on pipes, pumps, compressors, and other hardware. When winter doesn’t show up on schedule, they make winter happen. If you are connected to a business that relies on the resorts, and there aren’t many in town that don’t fit that description, you depend on the snow making, too.
Through the years I’ve known a few guys who have worked as snowmakers. They are a different sort. Largely nocturnal, seemingly immune to cold, wet, miserable conditions, they are out there freezing their behinds off night after night. They are caked with ice, floundering around in the dark and spending their time next to very loud machinery with high-pressure hoses that seem designed to knock teeth out. Most of them seem to enjoy it, and dread reassignment to softer jobs where they actually have to talk to guests as the winter progresses. They’ve been at it for long shifts this year, with no end in sight.
Skiing has been quite good. There hasn’t been a lot open (they were obviously saving some for the holiday crowd), but what has been open has adequate coverage and completely acceptable conditions. As more terrain has opened, it got better and better. With the holiday crowd in town, I’ve stayed home. But given the amount of bare dirt a couple of weeks ago, it’s nothing short of miraculous that we have things up and running at all.
So if you get the chance, buy a snowmaker a cookie to say thanks for pulling this off. It didn’t happen easily this year, and they’re not finished yet.
Behind the frostbitten snowmaking crew stand the water utilities with all their pumps and tanks and miles of pipes all running at maximum capacity. Stuff like that breaks, especially in the cold, and somebody is there in the middle of the night to make repairs and keep it all running smoothly. All that snowmaking draws a lot of power, and the power company seems to be managing the load. (We can talk about the carbon footprint of all this artificial white stuff another time).
Speaking of people who deserve thanks, both the UPS and FedEx drivers on my route pulled rabbits out of their hats and made deliveries ahead of schedule. Both of them are new, and they leave packages at the corner rather than getting stuck on my one-lane road, so I haven’t really met them. The previous UPS guy used to hang out and talk tractors for a while on slow days. They were heroes on Christmas. The tracking website said my package was lost in Idaho Falls, but they got it here.
The weather hasn’t been snowy enough to need a lot of plowing, but there have been several little storms at temperatures that iced the roads down. The plow guys were on it. The UDOT guys have something new on their trucks this year and a bunch of new lights. They look like a rolling Christmas tree when they come down the pitch dark highway at completely unreasonable hours of the night.
Years ago, this was a small enough community that you knew the people behind the scenes that kept it all going. They were us. If a tree blew over and took out the power line, the lineman who came out to fix it was a neighbor, and the plow driver a cousin. We’ve grown so much that we don’t have that personal connection much. Odds are that the lineman now lives in Salt Lake. Yet when the tree falls on the power line, a crew is here and gets things back up and running, no matter what the conditions.
As we close the book on 2017, take a minute to appreciate the people who provide the services that make life in this sort of impractical location not only possible, but downright comfortable. Thanks, everybody, for a great year, and here’s to another in 2018. And since we are all going to get that $4,000 raise President Trump promised, next year will surely be even better. Bigly.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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The transfer of power is one of the miracles of the American system of government, writes columnist Tom Clyde. On Wednesday, he was pleased to see that “normal prevailed” after a tenuous post-election period.