2.17.12 Harris Hill & Ripcord - open for business

Friday, February 17, 2012

When I was growing up in Keene, NH the Harris Hill Ski Jump competition was on our annual list of “must attend” events.  Maple Valley (on RT 30 in Brattleboro) was our home ski mountain so hanging a right to check out the jumping action was easy.

Our high school ski team had a nordic team and ski jumping was a discipline.  I tried a little jump in Newport, NH and that was the start and end of my jumping career.  But several of my teammates jumped, which made Harris Hill all the more compelling.  Well, that and the famous crash on the Wide World of Sports.

The Harris Hill Ski Jump is a 90 meter jump in Brattleboro that dates back to 1922, before it was even an Olympic sport.   http://harrishillskijump.com/ They are holding their annual competition this weekend and it is the only FIS stop in the US.  They rebuilt the jump in 2008 and Mount Snow purchased a step as part of the fundraising.  Every year Mount Snow helps out with snowmaking. 

I talked to Randy Barrows, head of Mount Snow’s snowmaking, about Harris Hill.  He said the Mount Snow snowmakers have been going down there for 26+ yrs.  And Randy has been there every year.  They started making snow about 2 wks ago.  This year Randy has been working with the Harris Hill volunteers and teaching them how to make snow.  Chuck Hamby, another one of our veteran snowmakers, went to the hill each night to adjust the water content.  Randy is confident that next year they (the volunteers) will be able to handle it own their own.  But I am pretty sure he will stop by!

Similar to Ripcord, Randy explained that you try to make the snow as wet as possible for building, knowing that the groomers won’t be on it.  Down at Harris Hill they use chlorinated water and the snow looks white but the water content is blue before it is completely frozen - a really amazing sight, according to Randy.  Harris Hill rents their own compressors and a pump.  They get their water from a fire hydrant with only 100 PSI (you need about 200 PSI to make snow) and they boost it with the pump.    It takes about 24 lengths of feed hose (about 1200 ft) to reach the jump.  Randy heard that next year they may install some pipe.  In addition, they have to extend 300 ft of hose to reach the top of the ramp.  Randy said the stairs aren't bad but you have to wear creepers to make snow on the ramp.  There are slats on the ramp that helps for walking and holding the snow - without the slats the snow would just slide off.

Pictured above - Harris Hill - 2/14/12.  I encourage you to check out this great event!  http://harrishillskijump.com/

When I asked Randy about the similarities of making snow on Ripcord , he said if you make it too dry it will avalanche, especially, on the pitch.   He explained that you make it wet and are trying to make roots so it adheres to the pitch.  As time goes on you back off on the water content and as you get near the end you powder coat it.  On Ripcord, Randy and his snowmaking team do it all on foot.  Randy told me that when they first fired it up it was pretty fast  and they had to start up in the brush line so they could have good footing.  I was surprised to hear that it is Randy’s favorite trail to make snow on.  Why?  Just because of the challenge and there are no obstacles in the way (lifts, shacks, etc.) 

Dragging out my old photo albums made me think that I would love to write a blog about the Glade-iator event.  If you have any old photos, please send them to me at ripcord@mountsnow.com.  Maybe I will use them in my blog.

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