On January 11, 2023

Meet snowmaking manager Greg Gleason

By Karen D. Lorentz

Every once in a while, you meet someone who was destined to work in the ski industry. That was the case in spades for Killington Snowmaking Manager Greg Gleason. 

Because he grew up directly across the street from Song Mountain, in Tully, New York, he had a view of the snowmakers making snow at night.

 “They would make it under the lights. I couldn’t sleep and I knew that when those lights came on they were making snow, so I would head over to check it out. They knew I was coming and would leave snacks and treats for me in the top lift shack,” Gleason told the Mountain Times of a defining time in his life. 

His father, Mark, taught him to ski, taking him to Killington, “particularly in the spring. I don’t remember how young I was, but I remember the huge bumps on Superstar. Killington is the one resort I remember going to over and over. 

After graduating from high school (2006), Gleason attended Green Mountain College and earned a degree in the Resort Hospitality Management Program. [Now operated by Castleton University, the program include hands-on learning at Killington.). 

“One of my parents was like, you have to go to college and the other was, do what you want to do. I could have been a professional ski bum, but I knew I had to go to college,” he said of  applying to GMC. 

After college, Gleason moved to Lake Tahoe and worked at Squaw Valley (now Palisades, Tahoe) as the snowmaking supervisor for seven years. He moved back to New York and was working at different jobs at a pump company when he hired on as a snowmaking operations foreman at Killington in October 2017. On June 1, 2022 he became the snowmaker manager. 

Q&A with Greg Gleason

Mountain Times: When did you start working at Killington and in what positions?

Greg Gleason: I started as a student at Green Mountain College in 2006. Greg Hiltz was the snowmaking manager at the time, and I guess I pestered him enough to finally get the job of making snow. 

As part of the RHM program I also had to get a front-of-the-house job, so I did head of bell staff and valet for a year. There was no ski check at that time, and we needed one, so Duane Hall and I set that up in a closet by the front door. Now it’s downstairs and they check bikes too. 

Currently I’m the snowmaking manager, overseeing 55 snowmakers and 75 total staff members. 

MT: What do you like about your job? Challenges? Rewards?

GG: Snowmaking is engrained in me. Killington’s snowmaking team and capabilities are second to none. Our team is ready to go on October 1 each year and will continue to make snow through the end of March — five solid months of work on over 1,500 acres! 

While many resorts set a targeted start and end date for snowmaking, or will shut down when a storm rolls through, our team is on the job anytime temperatures are right and it’s safe to do so. 

No challenge is too big, and as the East Coast’s weather patterns can often be brutal, we are ready to jump into action to recover from even the most punishing storm. I’m proud to lead this effort. 

The job is fun for those of us who are crazy enough to call it a career. It’s tough, it’s rewarding, and you’re outside. That’s a big one for me. I do spend some time in the office, but if I didn’t get to go outside, I wouldn’t do it. 

For me I enjoy seeing green and then all of a sudden you’re skiing. It’s incredible. You can make something in a matter of hours and it’s never the same. I learn something every day. I’ve made snow on Superstar a million times, and it’s always different.

MT: What are the major changes you’ve seen? 

GG: One of the biggest changes is added attention to environmental impacts and doing all we can to reduce our footprint. In snowmaking, we do consume quite a bit of energy compressing air and pumping water. 

We have had several high efficiency snowgun models popping up since 2012. In 2013/14 they came out in numbers here at Killington. You can tell which ones they are because they have a beak, and those have a fixed amount of air that they use. 

The air compressors installed in the late ’80s are not as efficient as they were when new. They were on and off, but the new air compressors  we’ve installed are variable speed and that makes a big difference in efficiency. 

MT: What is the greatest challenge that climate change has brought for snowmaking?

GG: This season we saw 70-degree temperatures into November. At the end of last season, on Wednesday, June 1, we were confident we’d make it through the weekend with the stockpile on Superstar, only to have to piece the trail together a few days later. So, it’s hard to ignore the effects of our warming planet. But our system is highly sophisticated and we’re able to make snow in marginal temperatures. The K3000 gun is a workhorse that can make snow in higher temps, so we take advantage of that. We’re also doing what we can to add efficiencies to the system wherever we can to reduce our impact as much as possible.

MT: Any memorable experiences you can share?

GG: I think it was 2009 I was working the day shift and running the Outer Limits trail. The guns were very wet, making almost yellow snow. 

With the type of guns on that trail you’re supposed to use a water pressure gauge. You get the proper pressure for the guns from the control room and ensure each gun is at that pressure. The gauges always froze and were a pain to carry so I either didn’t bring one or didn’t use one. I adjusted the pressure on the first one or two guns and walked out and checked the snow to make sure it was the proper quality; after that I just eyeballed the rest of the guns.

Later that day a foreman came and told me that I took the trail from un-skiable to best run of the day. After that my career really went somewhere. I was given more responsibilities for the remainder of the season and allowed to go to Pico to make snow  — only seasoned veteran snowmakers got to go to Pico!

MT: How do you spend your time outside of work? 

GG: I have a 1-year-old daughter, Addie, so my time away from work is mostly spent with her and my wife Kelly. Turns out that Addie really loves the outdoors, so in the summer we hike a lot. Our three dogs will join us on dog friendly hikes. 

Sometimes we’ll pack up the car and just go drive and explore different towns and grab lunch or dinner somewhere. 

I also really love gardening; it’s something I picked up from my grandfather, and I’ve had a garden for as long as I can remember.

MT: What’s your take on the mountain lifestyle? on winter? Vermont?

GG: I can’t picture living anywhere other than the mountains — towns and crowds are not for me — too much commotion. 

As a snowmaker, I love Vermont because we are really the ones that make it happen here. Out West, people think snowmaking is a nuisance and complain about having to ski under guns. Here people really appreciate the effort and we are treated as heroes. 

MT: What would you tell someone thinking of moving here or working at a ski area?

GG: Do it! People often view a job or a housing situation as permanent or binding, but you can always move back somewhere, so take the chance — make the move. You only live once and the biggest risks give the biggest rewards. 

Living and working at a ski area is definitely a lifestyle, but if you love to ski or snowboard, you can’t beat living in the mountains. The hours can be long and the work hard and you most likely will have to work weekends and holidays, but there’s a certain freedom that you just can’t find in other jobs.

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