Where do I even start? The last two months have been, well, wild. From the first views of the damage the morning after the tornado came through, to wondering if we’ll ever operate again, to the incredible generosity of our friends, colleagues, and strangers near and far, I can’t even begin to explain the rollercoaster that my family and I have been on. I suppose I’ll start from the beginning, we’ll work our way through the most recent developments, and finish with what’s left to do. But before we get into that, I have to say this:
WE WILL BE OPEN FOR SKIING, SNOWBOARDING, AND TUBING THIS WINTER!
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s go back to the morning of Tuesday, August 8th. I made my way out early that morning, where people had already gathered to witness the destruction. I figured there would be some trees down, maybe a little damage after the high winds and rain, but I was not prepared for the reality of the situation. From the top of Snow Pocket, straight down to the bottom of Little Mountain, an EF3 tornado had left a trail of mangled trees, lifts, equipment, and buildings in its wake. Four of our 5 lifts had been severely damaged, our secondary groomer crushed by a massive tree, the warming yurt resembled a pancake more than it did a building, among countless other damages. It was overwhelming, to say the least. In all honesty, the thought of packing it in and abandoning ship crossed my mind more than once. Wondering if this was something that we could realistically recover from, let alone operate this season.
But then the support started pouring in. Phone calls, texts, emails, visits from friends, family, strangers. It was not only comforting, but incredibly humbling. We quickly realized that this was not just a tragedy for our family business, but for a much larger community that wasn’t going to let this keep us down. The shear amount of support we’ve received speaks volumes to the importance of this ski area to so many people. Without it, Snow Ridge would be no more than a memory. The scope of the recovery effort truly is staggering, and none of it would have been possible without those who have stood behind us and lifted us back up.
Over 120 people have showed up to our two volunteer clean up days. Most notably some of our closest competitors including a crew from Dry Hill, a crew from Greek Peak, and Tim Woods from Woods Valley. Businesses donated equipment including Caza Construction, Riverside Equipment Rentals, and G&G Tree Service. Countless others have made monetary donations, donated tools, and their time to help us bounce back. We started a GoFundMe campaign after we learned that the majority of the tree removal, the crushed groomer, yurt, and other smaller damages would not be covered under our insurance policy. That campaign is nearing $40,o00 and may very well cover the logging and reclamation expenses that we’ve incurred so far. The generosity shown by so many of you has literally kept this business alive. We quite literally cannot thank you all enough!
While hundreds, if not thousands of trees still remain down in the woods across our property, they should have minimal effect on the winter trails, including our glade runs. Removal of all the trees that needed to be taken down in order to operate this winter has been completed. I’d like to thank Shue Brothers for making swift work of a very large project and allowing us to get to work on the chair lifts.
I’m happy to report that we are optimistic that all 5 lifts will operate this winter! Initial assumptions to the extent of the damage proved to be a bit excessive, with the wire ropes and towers passing crucial inspections that otherwise could have kept them grounded for the upcoming season. Parts are coming in weekly to replace those damaged by trees, including sheave frames, communication wire, and chairs. A trip to visit our new friends at Smuggler’s Notch resulted in three replacement sheave frames that we desperately needed. You’ll notice a smattering of silver chairs across the three chair lifts this winter. These are new galvanized chairs that will be replacing the damaged chairs, eventually swapping out all 195 chairs with galvanized frames that do not require paint. I’d like to personally thank our friends at Plattekill Mountain for making these new chairs available to us.
To date, all of the wire ropes have been reset back onto their respective towers, due in huge part to the efforts of Tioga Construction. Sheaves are being repaired, wheels and liners are being replaced, and we will soon be able to begin some of the annual maintenance of the lifts, like greasing and slip testing chairs. We have also secured a replacement groomer, thanks to the creativity and generosity of Mohawk Industrial Werks. The Pisten Bully supplier came to our rescue and has us set up with a new (old) machine that gets us right back to where we were with our previous cat. We cannot thank them enough for this tremendous act of kindness and cooperation!
In the coming days, once all damaged sheaves and wheels have been replaced, we’ll be able to spin the lifts again and begin our new chair swaps, slip testing and greasing. Electrical systems will be put back together with brand new communication line, and the counter weight frames on Ridge Runner and North will be replaced. At that point, the lifts will be ready for load testing. This is a process where we load the lift to 120% of its capacity using 50 gallon drums full of water, and test all of the lift’s systems to be sure they’re working properly. Upon finishing these tests, the lifts will be ready to run!
Of course, as things often go with projects like this, we do anticipate some hold ups and delays. Will all 5 lifts be ready for opening day (assuming full snow coverage)? Unlikely, but possible. Will they all be running by some point this winter? Very likely, but we’re staying cautiously optimistic. We plan to focus on Ridge Runner, Little Mountain, Snow Pocket, and North Chair in that order. While it’s amazing how much work has been accomplished so far, there is still much to do. I’ve been leaning on some close friends and family so far through this process, who without their support, the thought of opening this winter wouldn’t be possible. You know who you are and thank you from the bottom of my heart.
NOW! Some housekeeping items that I want to make everyone aware of. We’ve extended the final Season Pass discount deadline to November 1st! Be sure to order your Season Pass by Wednesday, November 1st to guarantee the lowest rates going into the season. Purchase online, in person, or by phone at 315-348-8456.
We are now accepting employment applications for this winter! If you’re looking for a fun, seasonal gig from December-March, plenty of part-time and full-time positions are available! Check the employment tab on our website or stop into the main office for more info and to fill out an application.
Cold weather seems to be knocking, so snowmaking repairs, tests and setup will be done this week and we plan to fire up as soon as the weather allows. Otherwise, fingers crossed for some early season snow, cold, and good fortunes. We’re working hard and look forward to seeing everyone once the snow flies!
With sincere appreciation for all of you,