85 Days of Snow
By Will Edwards
It was a Saturday morning and time to meet up with the gang to ski. With no skiable snow in the neighborhood we had to make do with the meager surface snow on a local lake near Dousman. That Saturday we skittered along from patch to patch of snow on Henrietta Lake and called it “training”. That’s what we did in low snow years if we didn’t want to travel north to find snow. Some years there was adequate local snow, but often we were pushed to some expediency or another in order to get in a ski or training.
A Brief History of Snowmaking
That all started to change in 2005, when park manager Ed Muzik and Superintendent Paul Sandgren had the idea to make snow at Lapham Peak. The decision was prompted by irregular snow fall in the area, which resulted in inconsistent skiing and in unpredictable work hours for the DNR staff. Inspired in part by the snowmaking done for the Salt Lake City Olympics, and given the opportunity to obtain a snow dozer and two snow guns from the closing of the downhill skiing at Potawatomi State Park, the decision was made to make snow at Lapham Peak. Help came from other quarters. A shop class from Kettle Moraine High School built a pump house as a class project. The Delafield Fire Department donated an old rubber fill tank to hold water. A well was drilled and a pump was installed, and fire hoses were borrowed from the Tomahawk DNR Forestry Equipment Center.
With this very basic infrastructure, Ed Muzik and Sean Becker made the first snow in February of 2006. Ground water is too warm to make snow, so they used the old rubber tank to hold and cool the water. The two did manage to make some snow that year, but it quickly became apparent that the volume of water required was far too much for the tank. A pond would be needed. In the fall of 2006, a 2.2 million gallon pond was dug, thanks to the volunteer efforts of John McCarthy and others and thanks to a generous donation by the Lupo family. This was “Phase 1”.
Several other phases would follow over the course of the next 13 years. This work was done in stages as money and volunteer hours allowed. An extension would typically take 7-14 days and hundreds of man hours. A trench 6’ deep is dug and a continuous 8” water pipe and a 2 3/8” 480 volt electrical wire is buried in the trench. Hydrants and electrical pedestals are installed every 75m or so. We have had the good fortune to have highly skilled volunteers to plan and install this infrastructure. John McCarthy has planned the water system, Rich Marusinec the electrical system, and Beattle Adelmeyer has skillfully operated the heavy equipment, digging the trenches and restoring the trail. Special thanks also to Sandy Sugden, Kris Maki, Joe Stuber, and Anne Reindl for their many, many hours of volunteer efforts.
The near future of Snowmaking at Lapham Peak
Our 1980 Logan snow cat was bought in 2011 but now needs to be replaced. It is a powerful machine for pushing snow, however it lacks the ability to do the fine grooming a Nordic Center needs. We have spent $42,000 over the last three years in repair bills alone. Rather than sink more money into this old machine, the snowmaking team would like to purchase a new(er) snow cat—maybe a new Piston Bully 100. We can make high quality snow over a lovely course, but we cannot deliver a great ski experience with the grooming equipment we have.
Soon we hope to build a 42ft x 42ft garage for our snowmaking and grooming equipment. We have snowmaking for 2.4 Kilometers of trail plus the “playground” area. We have an adequate cooling pond, well pump, 480v power supply, 8” buried piping system, 33 water hydrants, 32 electrical pedestals, and 6 quality snow guns. We also have an experienced and dedicated snowmaking crew. We are 90% of the way to providing high quality reliable skiing for 85 days each winter. What we are missing is a reliable snow cat to groom the snow we make. We have most of the money for the garage, but need to raise $250,000 for the snow cat. Please consider what you can do to help us make 85 days of excellent skiing a reality by donating to our snow cat fund and/or volunteering to make snow.