Thursday afternoon I ran into Mac, Steele, and Adam who had come over from the ski hill to help as we try to sweep, shovel, and cart away a winter’s worth of sidewalk sand. “You coming over to the hill this afternoon?” Adam asks. “Last day. Last day of training on the hill.”
The last day. The groomer will shut down, the B netting will get wrapped and rolled and carted off the hill, and the snow machines will sit idle in the shop. The t-bars will get unbolted and stacked in a corner at the base. The corduroy snow of winter flattens, thins, and runs off the hill with the warmer weather. I think about this: Mac, Steele, and Adam out there in November setting up snow guns and working all night, night after night, as the thin streams of snow become 20 foot mounds; the first rumble of the cat as the surface is smoothed; the first snaking lines of skiers going up the t-bar or heading out on the Nordic trails in December; the red ribbon of the torchlight parade in February. Gone for the next eight months is the early morning music on race days and the way the slap of jumping skis echoed across the campus on cold January nights. (Yes, you can hear them from this side of the street.) Gone are the cars that erroneously race down Ward Lane on race day only to realize when they arrive in Hunter’s back yard that old New England saying: “You can’t get there from here.” Gone are the lines of SUVs and cars heading down Lawrence Street on race day to find the Ski Hill and USSA High Performance Center sign and the skinny dirt driveway.
Lots of folks make the Proctor Ski Area happen, and that crew on the sidewalk in front of Ives has been at the heart of it all winter. But the real magic maker? The quiet snow artists behind it all? Garry George. He’s the legend I’ve watched for 14 years, although he’s been at it way longer than that. He grew up on New Hampshire snow, racing at Ragged Mountain and then at Proctor as a student, whupping up on everyone in the Lakes Region. He has the skier’s feel for what makes a great surface and the perfect pitch. He raced nationally and internationally following his time at Proctor, returning home in the 1980’s to coach and then manage the ski area. For 37 year he’s put his heart into snow making, venue making, and myth making. Teams travel hours to train or race at the Proctor Ski Area because of the absolute certainty of a world class, World Cup worthy surface. Garry George does all of this quietly, humbly, and diligently. He flies below the radar. He doesn’t look for praise, he just looks for ways to make the Proctor Ski Area better.
It was wholly fitting that last weekend he received one of the honors that he clearly deserved - the prestigious John W. McCrillis Award. It was awarded to him last Saturday evening at a celebration hosted by the Mt. Sunapee Resort, an event that was attended by former olympians and luminaries from the ski world. The John W. McCrillis Award honors the legacy of a man who was a ski pioneer in the last century and who was elected to the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame in 1966. Who better than Garry to receive this award? I was fortunate to be there and to listen to the accolades, to be a part of the standing ovations, and to be able to shake the hand of one of the hardest working men I know.
There are many people who make the Proctor engine churn. Mac, Steele, Adam and so many others on our staff make the gears turn, but Garry George, when he slips into the cab of the Cat at 3:00 a.m. or hauls the snow making hoses across the hill at midnight, he sets the tone. So as the winter season shuts down across the valley and those white ribbons of snow finally melt away, the one thing that remains a constant is our collective gratitude for the work of Garry George.
It’s been a heck of a winter. Thank you, Garry!
Mike Henriques P'11, P'15
Proctor Academy Head of School