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Sunshine’s assistant supervisor of trail crew talks snow farming

November 16, 2012

Justin Hawco, Assistant Supervisor of the trail crew at Sunshine Village is in his fifth season with the resort and can’t imagine doing anything else.

What brought you to Alberta?

I moved from St. John’s, Newfoundland seven years ago for a change of pace.  I had a friend living in Banff and thought, why not?

Why the Sunshine Village trail crew?

I worked in retail when I first moved to Banff, but I found it really tough to be inside all the time. I heard that Sunshine Village was having a hiring fair and I knew a couple of guys who were on the trail crew. I went into the interview and said I wanted to try it out. I’ve been here ever since.

What does the trail crew do?

Instead of making snow like many resorts, Sunshine Village relies on natural snow. In order to ensure the snow stays on the mountain, we farm it and I help teach staff how to farm the snow. Our team sets up 35 km’s of snow fence around the mountain using 6,000 pieces of steel. At Sunshine Village we have one of the most extensive snow farming programs in the world, so we are busy.

What is snow farming?

Snow farming means building snow fences to catch snow drifts by acting as artificial wind breaks. Snow cats are used to push the snow around to all different parts of the hill. Steel bars are used to hold the fences up, but are replaced with bamboo as soon as the snow starts falling. We start with steel because before there is snow, the bamboo can’t stick into the ground. We replace the steel with bamboo later on to make sure our runs are safe for all our guests.

What does a typical day at Sunshine Village look like for you?

I am up on the mountain by 8:30 a.m. Our team checks out which runs have been groomed and fix any holes or hazards. Once the chairlifts start running, we are re-tying and refitting fences.  We are also kept busy replacing the steel on the fences with bamboo.

What do you love about your job?

I love being outside all the time and here at Sunshine Village we work hard and ski hard.


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