Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Snow farming

No business owner or employee in the Wood River Valley ever dreamed of becoming a snow farmer.

But that's what we are.

Just before Thanksgiving every year, we check the Farmer's Almanac for the long-term weather outlook. We cast a knowing eye at the sky every evening and every morning. We recite the sailors' mantra, "Red sky at night, sailor's delight; red sky at morn, sailor be warned."

We welcome the sailor's fright, the red sky at morn and the gray clouds that mean snow will fall soon. We mine history books, the memories of people born and raised here, and the memories of old people. We ask, "Do you remember a year like this?"

Their responses are soothing. Yes, there have been years like this before. When the Sun Valley Lodge opened in 1936, the Associated Press reported there wasn't enough snow for skiing, so guests amused themselves with dog-team racing, ski-joring, tobogganing and paddle tennis.

Like farmers everywhere, we do the best with what we have. In years like this when snow has yet to accumulate anywhere but on the high peaks, snow making is what we have. As snow guns blast the precious white streams, we are thankful for the growing layers of white down each of Bald Mountain's major runs.

If we had known about the pitfalls of snow farming before we were seduced by pillows of snow and the euphoria of sliding through them, would we have chosen to be snow farmers?

As skiing opens on Baldy today, we will no doubt hear the answer echoing from each run: "Yes!"

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