Grooming the Trails at Yawgoo

Surprisingly, it doesn't matter much to them whether it snows.


The view from inside the groomer at Yawgoo.

The sun has yet to rise over the Yawgoo Valley, but Clay Hartman is already hard at work.

He’s the maintenance manager at Rhode Island’s only ski park, and he and the staff are scrambling to get the slopes ready for the 1,800 kids who will soon start their five-week skiing and snowboarding program. Each morning, Hartman and another employee clamber into machines called groomers and criss cross the trails, methodically smoothing them out for that day’s skiing and snowboarding.

So far, the weather hasn’t been cooperative this season, says his wife, Tracy, who oversees marketing for Yawgoo. Though they got at least nine inches in the recent storm, natural snow doesn’t last very long, Hartman says.  

“When it’s in people’s yards, it gets them excited to go skiing,” Hartman says. “They don’t realize when we get a snowstorm, it doesn’t affect our product.”

That’s where their fifteen portable snow makers come in. They pump water from a pond to the snow makers, which spray fine particles into the cold air. But the conditions have to be right. The temperature’s got to be below twenty-eight degrees (the colder, the better) so the water can freeze before it hits the ground.  

“Everybody thinks that they make snow,” Hartman says of the red machines. “They just spray water and the air makes the snow.”

Yawgoo’s already open for skiing, but they need to make more a lot more snow to create the chutes for the tubing hill. They’re hoping to open that by next week.

Yawgoo Valley Ski Area and Sports Park, 160 Yawgoo Valley Road, Exeter. For skiing, call 294-3802.

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