Get to Know Who Makes Stratton Mountain Run
Nazli Kfoury, firstname.lastname@example.org
STRATTON MOUNTAIN, Vt.
We’d like to introduce you to Lynn Capen, Head Snowmaker, Al Desroches, Trails and Slopes Manager (Master Groomer) and Eric Langman, Terrain Parks Manager at Stratton Mountain Resort
When it comes to the art of snowmaking. Lynn “Cape” Capen and the crew are on duty 24/7, poised to take advantage of every window of opportunity to lay down “snow so smooth you wish they could bottle it.”
So Cape. what’s your idea of good weather?
18 degrees Fahrenheit, 40 percent humidity, winds at 5-10 mph. You need a little wind to spread out your snow. Depending on the conditions, we’re maxing out on either air or water. In marginal temperatures, it’s air. In colder weather, we max out the water which is more efficient.
Is machine-made snow real snow?
It’s better than real snow. Mother Nature gives you what she has to offer. Here we’re in charge of quality, adjusting the mixture to create the snow we want. In the beginning of the season, we want heavier snow (more water) to build that base layer (1-2 feet for a beginner trail, 2-3 feet for intermediate trails, and 3+ feet for expert terrain). We use lighter snow (more air) for a quality surface, and on a bump trail that’s about a foot of surface snow. And natural snow doesn’t hold up as well.
Snowmaking is so important as skiers and riders have come to expect great conditions day after day, from November through April. With $20 million in upgrades since 1996, how does your system compare?
Stratton’s air and water pumping capacity puts our snowmaking system among the top in New England, if not at the top. As far as the guns, we use 405 HKD tower-mounted and another 100 air/water tower guns, 380 land guns and 14 fan guns. We work hand-in-hand with the groomers to provide the very best possible snow surface.
How do you test the snow?
Let the snow fall on your sleeve and if it sticks that’s good base snow. If it bounces, like good snowball snow, it will hold up to traffic. Powder floats off your sleeve.
What role does experience play in making great snow?
Experience definitely makes a difference. We have our game plan, starting two or three days out then finalized each afternoon at 1:30, but out there on the gun runs, we have to be ready to adapt to changing conditions, whether it’s wind speed and direction or rising humidity, or falling temperatures, we always are adjusting the blend. Water regulates density.
We make snow at every opportunity, making the most of even marginal conditions… And most important: We will not open a trail before it’s time!
Gold Medal Grooming
You can call them snow farmers, groomologists or Mountain Men, but those who ski and ride here might say that the ‘World’s Greatest Groomers’ work at Stratton. Our team has over 150 years of collective experience and knows the science behind managing the snow and rolling out the white carpet again and again.
Trails and Slopes Manager Al Desroches and his core players have been building Stratton’s grooming team for over two decades. His can do attitude and the support of the operations team classifies ‘Gold Medal Grooming’ at its best. NEFSA - New England Finest Skiing Available.
How can you tell if a trail is groomed?
A well groomed trail starts with the first edge cut of the trail. Moving all the snow back to the middle of the trail daily will create a consistent snow surface and plenty of fine carving. When finished, a well groomed trail will have seamless corduroy from the bottom of the trail to the top, reflecting that personal touch given by our professional staff.
How do you maintain consistent conditions from the early season right through those challenging thaw-freeze cycles we can experience?
Thaw/freeze cycles. That’s where we shine. It’s what we do. We watch the changing weather patterns closely and adjust our game plan based on Mother Nature’s offense. Our techniques are vast, adjusting to any type of conditions and our team is committed to perfection. We take the time to do it right from the start.
How important is it to understand the mountain and what you’re working with?
Knowing what our terrain is like before we make snow is critical to success and the performance of our operators. Retention and dedication of our staff shows our commitment to the best guest experience possible. We know the mountain.
And what about you personally, how do you ski or ride it?
I’ve been skiing here since 1968, snowboarding for almost as long as the sport existed. Even though I’m older now, I still experience all that we offer on the mountain. Cruising our upper mountain network is second to none in the East and I’m always looking for somebody to enjoy it as much as I do.
Top Terrain Parks
StrattonMountain welcomed its new Terrain Park Manager, Eric Langman (Buffalo, New York) to the resort for the 2009-10 season.
Langman joined Stratton from Vail, Colorado and carries over a decade of prior experience with terrain parks and pipes. Langman is responsible for all levels of the resort’s terrain parks, from the beginner Parkway all the way up to the Superpipe used during the U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships. He played a key role in Lower Middlebrook’s makeover into a 2,000 foot, 15 acre jib park and the move of the expert park and the Superpipe to the Sun Bowl.
Stratton’s parks have been featured in numerous print and television shoots and were recently voted in the top-10 for terrain parks by SKI Magazine.
Tell us a little bit about your vision?
I’d like to push the creativity of terrain park riding. I want to get the park rider thinking in different ways. It might be through different park lines, newer features, newer setups of old features. I want to challenge their creativity.
Is there an artistic element to what you do?
Art is in my blood. My whole family is involved artistically in something. My dad does some interior design, I have an aunt that’s an art teacher, another makes costumes for Broadway plays. I guess I have more of a functional artistic skill that I’m glad I’m able to share with people.
So the mountain is your canvas?
Absolutely. The mountain is my blank canvas.
What is the first thing you did upon arrival?
I have been prepping rails and building features riders will find pretty cool. Widening the trail, cleaning up, making sure the rails are prepped and assembled properly.
Any thoughts on being able to construct the U.S. Open course?
It’s awesome. I don’t know how else to describe it. For somebody who is building the parks, it is an amazing thought. It is one of the biggest events in snowboarding and I couldn’t be more excited.
It won’t be your first U.S. Open experience though will it?
Nope. I was at the 25th U.S. Open thanks to a roadtrip with Snowboard Magazine where we were testing boards. We finished up here at the Open. It was four of us who grew up riding together back in New York. I was able to ride the pipe during practice and it was intimidating as Hell to be dropping behind some of those guys, like Shaun White who have defined the sport.
I’m open to feedback. I know I just can’t build the park that I want it to be. It’s going to take a lot of teamwork. It’s going to be a process. It has to be and I want that type of feedback.
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