PROVIDING DEPTH Snowmaking is king during Maine’s ski season. This photo, courtesy of Sunday River, shows the technology at work on the state’s ski mountains.

While we dream of powder days, they are at work.

While the sun is down, they are up maintaining a battalion of snow guns, hoses, hydrants and pumps.

Though they have little contact with the general public, they are much lauded for their work.

If the snow gun isn't fixed, they move it around whether by hand or machine.

They crank tunes in the comfort of warm stylish cribs located on massive snowcats.

Often working 12-hour shifts this time of year, they change nozzles on snow guns and check water pipes, fluid levels, temperature controls and more.

It's up to them to report any safety and mechanical issues.

They shovel snow, lots of snow in a physically demanding job.

Not to bah humbug the holiday season, but for skiers and rider ’tis the season for snowmaking when those hefty elves march through the night checking that everything is alright for when Snow Nation rubs the sleep from their eyes and hits the slopes.

Those snowmakers work like postmen in snow, sleet and freezing rain to deliver the white gold goods. They walk around in precarious places, on stout machines with some serious noise that rivals any chord from a headbanger.

So while Mother Nature is much stingier this season than last season so far, the snowmakers are on the mountains hands on also dealing with some impressive numbers.

Sunday River needs lots of white gold for those eight peaks. More than 90 percent of its terrain is reached through snowmaking, the water flowing from the Sunday River, a watershed with about 43 square miles of drainage.

The River's system can pump some 8,100 gallons per minute from the water source to the resort.

"We have approximately 80 miles of pipe, 30 miles of hose, and it takes 24 to 36 hours of to open a trail, depending on the trail," said director of communications Sarah Devlin. "And, we have approximately 1,900 guns and hydrants."

Those guns allowed Sunday River to open Oct. 19 and turn the lifts on during November weekends until Nov. 15 when they went into daily mode.

Shawnee Peak in Bridgton which started blowing snow in late November has 350 towers and eight fan guns to blow out the snow with water pumped to them through some 2 1/2 miles of hose.

Each trail has its own nuances as the snowmaking crew deals with weather conditions like temperature, humidity, wind, trail width, the type of snow gun and more.

How long does it take to open a trail?

"A trail is tricky as there are so many variables," said marketing director Rachael Wilkinson.

Mt. Abram, the place to do time travel in Greenwood, is up-to-date with 25 new Nivis airless guns. With a 50 percent Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program matching grant from Efficiency Maine, the green-friendly guns will cut air consumption 50 percent while also allowing a carbon offset of 402,804 pounds. The mountain opened Dec. 5.

And don't forget cross-country skiing.

About a half hour north of Portland, Pineland Farms in New Gloucester tested its system Dec. 1.

They're just waiting for colder temps to begin snowmaking in earnest.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Bretton Woods in the White Mountains is now owned by Omni Hotels and Resorts. The company acquired the Omni Mount Washington Hotel, the Omni Bretton Arms Inn, Bretton Woods Ski Area and Nordic Center, the Lodge at Bretton Woods, Mount Washington and Mount Pleasant golf courses, plus 500 acres for future expansion and development from CNL Lifestyle Properties. How much? Not disclosed.

Coming up

The Holiday Gift Bazaar at the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel. Dec. 12-13 is a chance for making progress on that nagging shopping list. On Dec. 12, the Loaf's holding its first Holiday Tree Lighting Festival with a Santa Claus parade at 4 p.m. followed by street performers, the lighting and 6:15 p.m. fireworks at the Beach. It's all free but bringing a new unwrapped toy for donation to a local charity is appreciated.

Sunday River's seventh annual Winterfest Weekend Dec. 11-13 takes care of everyone whether they're hoping to see Santa or celebrate the Festival of Lights. Among the offerings is a $5 night skiing ticket from 4-8 p.m. on Saturday. Insiders say Santa will ride the Chondola down the mountain to South Ridge sometime on Saturday, too. Maybe he'll be around for the 8:30 p.m. fireworks or get giddy during the second annual Bad Santa and Naughty Elf Party at the Foggy Goggle.

There are $39 lifts tickets, $20 ski or snowboard rentals, and $39 first-time Learn-to-Ski or Ride packages at Sunday River and Sugarloaf Dec. 13 for Mainers during Maine Ski Day.

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