In this installment of Snow People, we sit down with Charles Santry and Ian Jarrett, the top dogs at HKD Snowmakers, one of the premier snowmaking suppliers for ski areas around the planet and beyond.
GOS: So you guys are basically the Lennon & McCartney of snowmaking equipment. How’d you get your start in snow business?
CS: I first made snow in 1989 at Seven Springs Resort in Pennsylvania. My father in law, Herman Dupre, owned and ran the resort at the time. Herman is a do-it-yourself type of guy and invented and built his own snowguns to use at the resort. As soon as I saw his guns running for the first time I was hooked and could see his technology was special. We decided to form a company together. HKD Snowmakers is named after him - Herman K. Dupre. The company grew quickly and we needed help. Ian was my first phone call. We were great friends and teammates in college and I knew he could help us move forward, and we’d have fun along the way. I asked for his help, and thankfully he was game!
GOS: Great story for sure. For our layperson snow slayers out there, what does it take to make snow?
IJ: There are lots of technologies out there to choose from but the basic ingredients for making snow have not really changed in a long time - cold temperatures (ideally below 28 degrees) with water and compressed air pumped through our guns and boom, you've got snow. It's a rapid conversion process with the "flakes" getting only a matter of feet and a few seconds to nucleate and cure before they hit the ground, whereas snow from the heavens has all that distance and time to form. It takes a lot of hard work and the snowmakers at ski areas are basically superheroes - they can step in and save a ski area from certain disaster in a matter of hours after a bad weather event, so they definitely have one of the most critical and rewarding jobs on the mountain.
GOS: Super cool. Plus I love getting you to use the word "nucleate" in a sentence. How much snow can those rock stars produce with your guns?
CS: During the winter, a typical ski area can make enough snow to cover a football field with 100's of feet of snow. Try running a 100-yard dash on that - a little tough to find the end zone.
GOS: Wow - that's pretty amazing. Have you ever tried pumping tequila and lime juice through your guns to make the world’s biggest frozen margarita?
CS: No but that sounds pretty awesome. Santa’s workshop in Seven Springs, aka Herman’s snowmaking playground, makes a pile of snow so big it lasts until July 4th for a summer sledding party, so that would be the ideal testing ground for this.
GOS: Well I just patented it, so you’re welcome.
CS & IJ: Sweet - we'll drink to that!
HKD Snowmakers don't just cover ski trails - check out their grand slam snowmaking operation at Fenway Park to make the Fenway Big Air event happen.