A Day In The Life of Work: Snow Man

Winter Trail Grooming Manager Earl Ward ensures the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has a solid base.

Earl Ward

46
Winter Trail Grooming Manager
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
Wyoming

"I have been a groomer for 27 years. I started working here when I was in high school. My shift leader on the night shift has been here for 26 years. The morning-shift guy has been here for 14. We get a lot of return people. Why? The machine is a pretty unique piece of equipment, and you get to be on the mountain. Plus, you get the free ski pass.

"We work all night, every night. One shift starts at 4:30 in the afternoon and ends at midnight, and the other starts at 12:30 a.m. and ends at 8:30 a.m. At the beginning of the season, we try to build a base of snow where we pack everything down. Depending on the snow cycles, we leave ridges that catch the snow if the wind blows. We call it 'farming.' Once we get the snow packed down evenly, the ground doesn't come up as often.

"You have to be aware of avalanche possibilities and what the weather is doing, like if the wind is blowing or the snow is heavy. You have to be able to see where you are going, so you can stay out of the bad parts. It helps to know the mountain fairly well, because there are nights when you can't see your hand in front of your face. You have to try not to get stuck: I have been stuck in an avalanche and fallen off the trail before.

"I enjoy being up on the mountain at night. I'm always seeing animals: a fox, or the occasional moose or deer will venture onto the hill. Some guys think they see UFOs, and I saw a shuttle fly over one night. And the sun-rises and sunsets are pretty spectacular. It's what we call 'scenic pay.' "