Steve Sanders, Dublin’s resident groomer, grew up in Peterborough and started skiing at a young age. His ski coach at Conval was Dublin’s current alpine ski coach, Sandy Eneguess. At the time, Sandy was the owner and operator of the Temple Mountain Ski Area. Steve started working for Sandy, first part time, and then after graduation. Working at Temple, Steve developed an expertise in snow grooming.
Like many skiers, Steve wanted to try skiing and living in the Rockies. After living and working for a couple of years locally, he moved on a seasonal basis to Telluride, Colorado, where he groomed snow for 24 years. An avid mountain biker and skier, Steve realized early that ski instructors spent the best part of the day teaching, while groomers worked early and late, leaving them time to ski whenever conditions or the joy of skiing calls them to the mountain. At Telluride, Steve was part of a large team of groomers that operated large snow cats both in grooming and supplying the restaurants and facilities on the upper mountain.
Steve’s goal every day was to lay down the perfect track of snow. Despite the size and power of the equipment, this is a fairly complicated undertaking. The snow groomers are surprisingly fragile pieces of equipment. They are engineered to be powerful but light. This means that groomers have to be extraordinarily focused on their whereabouts, constantly adjusting the equipment to avoid obstacles and to remain safe. Snow conditions also play a large part. The characteristics of wetter or dryer snow need to be considered in building and maintaining base. A large part of this is in getting the snow properly compacted with uniform depths. Areas of high usage, like the end of ski runs, need to be built up with deeper base to avoid ski off.
At Dublin, Steve is responsible for a number of different areas. During the early season, the main focus is on developing a snow base on Upper Field for Nordic training. This requires making snow and then distributing it around the field and establishing a proper base. As natural snow starts to appear, Steve shifts his focus to the Norm Wight Ski Area and Dublin School Nordic Center, which pose two different challenges. Although the basic principles are the same, Alpine and Nordic skiers are often looking for different surfaces for their sports. In addition, differences in terrain and wear patterns require careful and continuous attention to fine tuning and maintaining each area.
In Winter, Steve’s life is fairly unpredictable. He is constantly responding to changing weather conditions, trying to harvest and maintain what falls from the sky. This often means being on the slopes and trails late into the night or early in the morning, working his way from central campus and the Norm Wight alpine area to the far end of Dublin’s property and the Nordic Center. When the two main areas are groomed, Steve then doubles back to groom a trail around Upper Field where Special Olympic athletes from the Keene area train.
Steve gets great joy out of seeing others playfully enjoying his work. For Steve, it is a constant job to create the perfect surface for Dublin athletes. Where most New Englanders battle the cold in Winter, Steve’s largest foe is the warm sunny days that the rest of us enjoy. Blizzards are his friend. Cold nights make for compacted, lasting base and a longer skiing season. The toughest Winter conditions allow Steve to use his experience and skill to create the perfect corduroy.