The mountain has fallen.
After months of dominating the fairgrounds, the snow pile that once contained a town’s worth of winter plowing has been reduced to intermittent patches of ice and sand. Streets Manager Sam Jewison is just a little excited to see “that dang thing” die a watery death.
“I think I can claim victory pretty soon here,” he said.
Since temperatures rose high enough for the mound to begin melting, Jewison has been fighting day in and out to vanquish it before the Jackson Hole Rodeo and other groups need the space for summer events.
Now, the battle is nearly won. But it required a feat of public works tenacity, considering that two years ago a significantly smaller snow pile disappeared at around this date.
To eliminate this behemoth in the same amount of time, the town hired a contractor from Afton to spend dozens of hours stirring the snow with his Caterpillar D8H, keeping it exposed and warm. Toward the end, Jewison doused the mound with sprinklers to speed up melting and often hopped on a bulldozer himself.
“It’s been a lot of work,” he said Thursday, “but we are getting close.”
The site won’t be quite clear for the Old West Days parade, which stages there. But Caitlin Colby with the Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the parade, said she isn’t worried about lack of space.
And soon, the last surviving ice chunks will be gone, leaving behind hundreds of tons of sand and a good deal of garbage to be separated via a vibrating screener.
The contents are bound to be interesting. Back in April, a quick scan revealed several soda cans, an HDMI adapter, a clump of steel wool and an airport-sized bottle of Fireball.
In the coming weeks, Jewison’s team will blade the remaining sand to return the fairgrounds to its former flatness. The rodeo will begin. All will be well with the world.
At least for the next six months. How might Jewison prepare for another winter like this?
“One can’t help but think about that,” he said, but no obvious answers come to mind. Options for snow storage are scarce. He’s looked into snow melters, but the giant burners are pricey.
On the other hand, so was this strategy. The most recent budget estimate shows “winter maintenance operations” topping $650,000, about $100,000 over 2018.
Luckily, Jewison has already decided the universe can’t possibly punish him with two preposterously snowy seasons in a row.
“I’m looking at an easy winter next year,” he said. “That’s what I’m hoping for.”