Featured, Local News

From surfer to snowmaker: Brian Hughes becomes Killington’s snow king

By Victoria Gaither
Snowmaker and groomer
Brian Hughes stands in front of his snow-cat. Hughes said snow equipment has come along way since he started in the business.

By Victoria Gaither

If there was ever a king of snowmaking, Brian Hughes holds the title. Celebrating 28 years at Killington Resort, Hughes started his career with no snowmaking or grooming experience when he landed in Vermont by chance from San Diego, California.

“I needed a change of pace, so I took out a map of the United States, closed my eyes, and where ever my finger landed is where I was going,” Hughes said.

It landed on Vermont. So he packed up his suitcase, cashed out all his money, and took a Greyhound bus to Rutland. “I had never seen snow in my life because I was a surfer. So I needed a job,” Hughes said. “[Killington] offered me all kinds of jobs, but then they said snowmaking, and I said yes, I could do that, although I had no experience. They trained me.”

In that time, Hughes learned to adapt to the cold— dressing in layers—and he has seen firsthand how snowmaking has changed.

“It’s a very expensive process, and it’s the air that costs so much money,” he said.

There’s also a lot more machinery. “When I started, we had one gun, and now we have, like, 15 types of snow guns.”

Hughes’ work day starts at midnight on the mountain. While others dream of skiing and snowboarding, he is getting the trails ready for opening.

Snowmakers and groomers hold hero status at The Beast. It’s clear Hughes has reached the legendary level.

During this interview; people stopped to say hello, wave, and shake his hand. One of those was Richard Gallo, who stopped to shake Hughes’ hand; he watches his snow reports on Instagram. “I watch him in the mornings,“ Gallo said. “He cares about the mountain and is passionate about his job. He’s great.”

By Victoria Gaither
Brian Hughes finishes his end-of-shift paperwork inside the groomer cab before heading home.

Hughes, who is also a snowboarder, said visitors to the mountain that litter touch a nerve. “Take your trash with you, don’t litter, it’s disgusting. What you bring on the mountain take back with you. I see hand warmers and beer cans on the mountain,” he said.

He recalled the Woodsy Owl “Give a hoot- don’t pollute!” campaign back in the mid-1970s.

“We have one planet. We can’t go anywhere. I grew up watching Woodsy the Owl on television and the Indian with the tear in his eye.”

A man of many words, Hughes says he’s happy people like his snow reports because he tells it like it is. No pretending, no exaggeration — just honesty, and truth. He’s also quick to add, “I’m not a meteorologist. I tell what I see.”

These attributes are what have gained him respect and legendary status at Killington Ski Resort and in the community.

“I want people to have a groovy day,” he said.

To hear more from about Hughes, listen to his full interview at spreaker.com/user/icradio/the-king-of-snowmaking-a-conversation-wi.

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