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Crowds take to the slopes at Yawgoo

January 28, 2012

Special to the Standard

EXETER – They’ve been making so much artificial snow this season at the Yawgoo Valley Ski Area and Sports Park that Pati de Wardener hasn’t bothered to keep track.
She’s the human resources director and her husband, Max, is president of the 47-year-old resort that they co-own.
It’s costly when the electricity, manpower and diesel fuel are totaled although, Pati de Wardener notes, “It’s four to five times more durable than natural snow.”
Nonetheless, last weekend’s substantial snowfall shifted the attention at Yawgoo to parking lot clearing, ticket sales, ski lessons, chair lift management and, up the road, the launching of happily shrieking kids in red rubber tubes – resembling mini life rafts – down a slope. A virtual sea of tubes gathered at the top, each awaiting a turn to whirl away while those who had already gone were pulled back up along a line at the side.
Near the entrance of the ski area, Aleya Olmstead, 3, and her sister, Maite, 5, were having a lesson with ski instructor Carly Davis. It seemed largely to involve falling over, giggling and getting back up covered in snow.
“Carly is our favorite instructor,” said their mom, Grietje.
With the natural snow falling on the manmade that was already there, de Wardener said there were about two inches on the trails with large mounds known as “whales” as high as 10 inches.
“We were a little busy Saturday,” she said, adding that Sunday was a banner day. “It’s been the busiest this [season] including Christmas week.”
She was assisted, as always, by her little dog Lily, a Yorkie mix that was rescued and likes to sit on top of de Wardener’s desk. Her other two dogs, a rescued Papillon and a Cavalier King Charles spaniel also come to work.
Yawgoo doesn’t make a big deal of the snow-making – a procedure that involves a big fan with a compressor blowing on water droplets that become bubbles and freeze, creating snow.
After nearly a half-century in the business, says de Wardener, she’s come to recognize and deal with Mother Nature’s snowfall patterns.
“We have one good year and one not so good. It evens itself out.” Temperature, she adds, is everything if they have to make snow.
“The lower the temperature, the more snow we can make per year. If it’s 28 degrees, we have marginal snow-making [conditions.] If it’s ten degrees with the same variables it’s much better.”
Yawgoo typically opens either right after Thanksgiving or in early December. Snow-making stops after the February school vacation.
“We have a good base right now,” says de Wardener. “We’ll have a few nights of making snow [this week]. We like to [stay open] through March if we can.”

Martha Smith is an award-winning journalist and author. Retired, she is an independent contractor for SRIN and can be reached at

Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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