Fire The Snow Guns: The first signs of man made snow get help from Mother Nature.

There are few things in life like going for a walk in a snow storm at night. I’m not talking about the wind howling in your face, bitter cold, zero visibility snow storm. The type of storm I’m referring to is the kind that’s calm, zero wind with a temperature right around twenty degrees Fahrenheit. The kind of storm that turns night into day because there is so much snow reflecting light you can see perfectly. The kind of storm that is eerily quite. These night storms are the best, as long as you don’t have to drive in them, at least I think so. They almost always mean you’ll be enjoying a pow day in the morning and those who venture out for a quick jaunt in the middle of the night get a view of what’s in store come morning. Those who live close to a ski resort or who are staying in a slope-side hotel, as sinister as it may be, go to bed hoping for awful driving conditions in the morning. Awful roads will slow the efforts of hundreds of die hard snow enthusiasts and insure fresh tracks for a few extra laps before the masses show. If I recall correctly, the cardinal rule of skiing is no friends on a powder day, sorry I don’t make the rules, just follow ’em.

But that’s getting off track. I wanted to share with you an experience of one such winter walk in a very recent snow storm and my first in Girdwood, Alaska. Two nights ago it started snowing around 7:00 PM, not hard but enough to take notice. Being cooped up all day and having no creative release due to lack of skiing I decided to just go for a walk. I grab the camera and a couple road sodas before I head for the mountain. Alyeska has the lights fired up on the new Ted’s Express chair lift and it looks like a massive space ship has just landed on the quite mountain town. The snow guns have just turned on too for the first time all year and you can see the headlights of the snow machines and quads driving around which only adds to the effect. By the time I get to the base lifts of Alyeska it’s puking snow, but, much to my delight it’s dead calm. The wind is coming from no direction at zero miles per hour. No sound either, just the sound of my footsteps on the ground. The falling snow is being reflected on street lights, illuminating the slopes making for a very cool photo op. I take a quick couple of shots to adjust shutter speed and ISO and end up with an almost black & white effect. Not bad for a rookie photog.

Once I get close to the base lifts, the fans on the snow guns have ruined the silence, but actually adds a cool background noise to the ambience. At this point it seems as though the snow guns aren’t doing anything to compete with Mother Nature, the snow is coming down hard and the accumulation is noticable. After a loop around the base of Bearcub Quad, Chair 1 and Ted’s Express I come away with some really good shots. Content and more anxious for opening day, I turn away from the mountain and head home. My advice to you fine readers on the internet is, next time it snows (not a blizzard) bundle up and go for a walk. Grab the dog, grab a friend or go solo, you’ll be amazed at how frozen little water molecules falling from the sky can really change the mood of an area you have come to know. Try it. Or maybe you already have.

Alyeska Resort openings from the 2012/2013 season on November 21 and will be holding a season pass holder appreciation day on November 20. See you on the slopes.

Leave a Reply