Certain areas, particularly those with a slope angle around 38 degrees, are prone to avalanching. Snook know many of those areas in the state by heart. Standing on top of Morgan Peak, he takes off his pack and points across the valley. “That’s the Maid of Orleans slide path,” he says, pointing at a naked, treeless gully. “That slid huge last year.” He spins and points the other direction, across Lake Dillon, to Buffalo Mountain. “Buffalo slid big in ‘86, my first year out here,” he says.
After scoping the scenery, Snook still has work to do on top of the mountain. He has to dig a snow pit, for two reasons. First to collect data about the snow, and second to decide if he’s going to ski the tempting 37 degree pitch he came up to ski, or if he’s going to turn around and go back down the low-angle trail he came up. He makes one slow, wide turn across the lip of the cornice, jumping slightly to see if anything moves. Then, he stops, takes off his skis and starts to dig efficiently and precisely. He carves out the pit so carefully it looks surgical, but within a few minutes he has a hole three feet long and two feet wide.
His technique isn’t unique, but his observations are careful. He measures the depth of the pit to the ground. He tests the hardness of each layer of snow. He even pulls out a lens and looks at the size of the snow crystals. He records everything he finds in a yellow waterproof notebook, to report once he gets home.
Finally ready to ski, he clicks back in to his bindings links steady, even turns through the open snowfield. There is one other ski track, but it looks old and blown in. He stops for a minute, and looks back up, when he gets to the tree line. Then, he turns and keeps skiing, dodging through the trees. He says he has his dream job. “For me, it’s a perfect match,” he says. “It combines my three loves, skiing, snow, and weather.” -Heather Hansman
Not a morning person? Check out the rest of our Dream Jobs series.