Summit County football coach named Colorado Ski Country USA’s 2018 Snowmaker of the Year
With Arapahoe Basin Ski Area set to open a new chairlift for its Beavers and Steep Gullies terrain expansion in a few short months, a lot is going on at the mountain.
And from snowmaking all across the ski area in the fall to operating chainsaws in the summer to enhance the skiing in the Beavers and Steep Gullies, Sean “Coach” Mase is in the middle of it all for this winter wonderland.
But when A-Basin snow maintenance manager Louis Skowyra describes what he believes sets Mase apart — and what led him to win Colorado Ski Country USA’s 2018 Snowmaker of the Year award — it’s his ability to independently lead in different positions. And that’s even if those positions are off-mountain.
Whether he’s leading the charge to open A-Basin before any other ski area in the state, or whether he’s coaching the Summit High Tiger football team’s offense, Coach Mase is doing it for the Summit County community.
“What separates Coach Mase from his peers in the snowmaking community is he’s active in the community and a coach with the Summit High Football team,” Skowyra said. “He not only does a good job at work on a day-to-day basis, he makes the time to give back to the community — something we really believe in here at The Legend. That deserves recognition, and I think he was recognized for that with this award. The snowmaking team did a terrific job this year and he was a leader of that team, went above and beyond.”
Mase, a Minneapolis-native, may only be in his third year making snow at Arapahoe Basin, but the 31-year-old Silverthorne resident is one of the more experienced leaders of the Basin’s 10-person snowmaking team. Along with the Basin’s vehicle maintenance manager Bill LeClair — himself the 1993 recipient of the Snowmaker of the Year award — Mase and the snowmaking crew worked last fall and winter to take advantage of the windows of cold temperatures and precipitation they had early in the season despite warm patterns at the end of October and in early November.
“I’d give Sean the credit for getting A-Basin open by just balancing our water and taking advantage of the temperatures,” LeClair said. “Giving our guests the best product? He is the key factor for that.”
The snowmobile guide Mase transitioned into snowmaking here in Summit County thanks to that connection between his snowmobile passion and snowmaking. Working as a snowmobile guide at White River Snowmobile tours, Mase soon found out two-thirds of the staff consisted of current or former snowmakers. So he decided to give it a try and before long, he found a new seasonal job he loved.
“Bill says it a lot: ‘It gets in your blood,’” Mase said. “You enjoy doing it so much you want to continue.”
Working first as a snowmaker at Copper Mountain Resort four years ago before he brought over his knowledge to A-Basin, Mase learned how to balance his seasonal job schedule while also picking up the nuances of snowmaking in Summit County.
Now at A-Basin, the seasonal nature of his multiple jobs means Mase helps out over the summer with several projects. Those include touching-up the ski area’s snow-gun fleet to helping with A-Basin’s chainsaw operations team, a group that is tasked with touching up trees lining the ski area’s in-bounds terrain.
“It’s good, tough exercise,” Mase said. “Anybody can benefit from walking around back there with a chainsaw.”
Then come September — smack-dab in the middle of the Tigers’ football season — when temperatures on-mountain dip back down to 28 degrees, Mase turns to effectively “firing up” the process needed to make the snow that starts A-Basin’s season so early.
A typical autumn snowmaking day at A-Basin for coach Mase means he coaches football in the afternoon, grabs a bite, and then heads to the ski area to begin snowmaking sometime between 7 and 9 p.m.
“There’s typically three of us at any given point in time,” Mase said of overnight snowmaking. “I think we are kind of creative in how we do it: one person during the day, one at night, and floating teams of two putting at least three together at any point in time.”
Then at the end of December, snowmaking at the Basin concludes for the year and Mase transitions into his mid-winter job as a snowmobile guide.
Working in the obscurity of deep, dark nights near the Continental Divide, Mase knows snowmaking can be a thankless job. It’s why the Snowmaker of the Year award meant so much to him.
And to LeClair and Skaowyra, Mase is the perfect recipient of the award because he embodies the ideal characteristics of a great snowmaker: independent work ethic, enthusiasm for accomplishment and an attention to safety.
“Snowmaking can have its hazards, but with the right training it’s a fun job,” LeClair said. “And part of the thing with snowmaking, it’s almost like you are playing God. Because you’re mother nature, you’re an artist on your canvas putting down snow, covering trails. And this year for the opening it made me feel really good just seeing all the smiles on peoples faces and hoots in the lift lines.”
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