Cordova Chronicles: Will it be the Year of the Snow?

This week the first snow of the year fell from the skies. On Saturday, Oct. 15, Cordovans who had been looking at dandelions in their yards and went to bed admiring a Super Moon awoke to big flakes swirling about and several inches of white stuff on the ground. Ski Hill volunteers who had spent several days blazing a new run connecting Mambo with Hidden had to be throwing their chainsaw in the air with joy.

While watching spectacular northern lights dance overhead in the countless clear nights of early October, more than a few local skiers had been speculating about this winter’s potential snow fall. As in that popular dance contest called The Limbo, the big question was: “How low will it go?”

Well, maybe low enough.

Last year was a complete shutout for the famous lift, but the rope tow did provide several days of action on the Beginner’s Hill, thanks to the efforts of area manager Dave Branshaw and several Sheridan Ski Club members.

Cordova’s first snowmaker, combined with occasionally snowfall at the base of the hill, made it possible for the crew to use the ski groomer to spread it about that slope. Beginning skiers and snowboarders, plus quite a number of sledders, crammed the area on weekends when the rope tow was running.

This August, heavy equipment was used to expand and widen that area, with a small steep jump-off added near the ski shed. Additionally, electric power sources were buried that will allow the snowmaker to be operated up near the top of the hill as well as at the bottom.

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“The idea is to create more space, and hopefully separate the skiers and sledders,” said Branshaw. “It got pretty crazy up there a few times last year.

“Being able to locate the snowmaker in more places will make it much easier for us to groom the area,” added Branshaw. “Last year was quite a learning curve for us, and the operation should go much smoother this year.”

Meanwhile, the ramps that run all the way to the top of the main ski hill have become a popular hiking trail, and Branshaw has spent considerable time making improvements. Sawdust has been used to cover the rocky lower ramps, which will make the creation of a smooth base for skiers easier, and also makes hiking much more pleasant.

Drainage has always been an issue on sections of the trail. The problem with constant washouts on the first steep ramp during heavy rainfall has been solved by the installation of a large rock catchment system and buried culvert. Flexible pipe and rock diversion channels have also been added further up the hill.

The Midway Station, which is a popular stop for many hikers, received a much-needed coat of paint. A nearby picnic table, as well as the deck of the shed, provides a nice place to relax and enjoy the view of Cordova and the surrounding area.

“The ski hill has evolved into a year-round recreation site, and it’s amazing how many people hike it on a daily basis,” said Branshaw. “Several do it during their lunch hour. With such easy access it’s the most popular trail in Cordova.”

While describing all the improvements, Branshaw added wistfully “now if we’ll just get enough white stuff to see skiers on the slopes again.”

Anyone who had lived in Cordova very long knows just how quickly snow can change to rain in our warm coastal climate. But who knows? Maybe this will be The Year of the Snow.

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