If you’re an avid skier, you’ll be envious of Jodie McCutcheon. “It’s a dream job,” says the 37-year-old snowmaking, roads and parking manager for the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort in Whistler, B.C. “I work days, I have technology at my disposal, I make darn good money and I get to ski a lot.”
McCutcheon manages a staff of as many as a hundred people, including six millwrights that do equipment repairs year-round and a large staff of seasonal snowmakers who work from October to January. These mostly young men work 12-hour shifts operating 270 snowmaking guns. These guns shoot out water that turns into snow when combined with air. Snowmaking staff adjusts the water pressure and the direction of the guns, plus they move them around the mountain and shovel.
It’s McCutcheon’s job to decide if it’s cold enough to make snow (it’s less efficient to make snow once it gets up to -1C), assess the quality of the artificial snow and map out where the guns are going next.
He gets to his computer about 5:30 a.m. Cameras on the mountain helps him assess the snow and equipment. He also schedules his staff, checks the weather, monitors the water level in the resort’s reservoir and looks ahead to upcoming ski competition and events that will need additional snow.
By about 8:15 a.m. he’s outside on skis, checking the slopes and the guns. By lunch he’s back in the office again, and his workday ends by 2 or 3 p.m.
McCutcheon comes from a farm in northern B.C. and briefly studied arts at university. In 1991 he moved to Whistler to be a ski bum. He started working for the mountain in equipment rentals and then as a ski patroller.
He had some friends who did snowmaking, and he liked what he heard about the job. “It was mechanical, very hands-on, very physical. And it was away from customer service. I thought I’d like it.”
He joined the seasonal team in 1998. In the summer he worked as a carpenter. When the snowmaking season ended each year, he was free to ski or take a warm beach holiday.
The resort started investing more in snowmaking. McCutcheon was great with computers and technology, and started moving up the ranks. Eighteen months ago, his boss moved on and he found himself head of snowmaking operations.
It’s safe to say, this guy knows snow.