The man and the mountain
STRATTON — The glow of the lights from the grooming machine can be seen far in the distance as the dedicated team at Stratton Mountain Resort works from sunset to sunrise to make sure the trails are in good shape for skiers and snowboarders in the morning.
Chris Evans, an assistant supervisor for the groomers, has been working at the resort for nearly 25 years. Since mid-November, Evans has spent close to 700 hours operating his Bison Snow Groomer.
It's a solitary pursuit, and Evans appreciates the isolation. There are days where events draw thousands of people to the resort, and hours later, Evans and his team will have the mountain to themselves.
"The things that we see and do up here can't be matched anywhere else. It's quite the satisfying job and you get paid for it," said Evans. "You spend nearly half of your life in the machine over the course of the winter season, it has to be comfortable, it has to be conditioned well, you have to be protected from the elements."
Evans, a resident of Chesterfield, N.H., drives nearly an hour both ways to and from work when the conditions are right. In winter storms it can take up to two and half hours to travel.
One of the challenges of the job is the time it takes Evans away from his family. For many years Evans would bring his daughter with him, prepare a dinner for her at the mountain, and then make her a little bed for her in the snow groomer.
"Family life is a huge difficulty unless you can handle working nights, long hours, extensive drive time if you live further away," said Evans. "You really have to love what you are doing. It's not for the faint of heart, it's definitely not for everyone."
Evans talked about how weather conditions play a role, that each snow is different, and requires a different technique. If just two-to-three inches of snow falls, it's a groomer's delight. But if rain falls, it takes a while to get the mountain back into shape.
"Nearly 10 years ago I have seen wind around 100 mph, seen parts of trees blowing across the summit, some days they can't open the lifts to the summit because of the conditions," said Evans.
Under the moonlight, with the stars dancing the darkness, during this cold clear January evening, you can Evans' reflecting off the windows inside the snow groomer while tending to the Sun Bowl section of the resort.
"The greatest job satisfaction, is to come back [to the resort], before going to work, go out riding, seeing the smile on people's faces, or the chatter in the gondolas about how good the conditions are and what the groomers did the night before," said Evans.
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