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Another Student’s Story: CJ Gaunce

February 8, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 7.31.03 PMMaking snow

CJ Gaunce is a junior at Waterville Senior High School. One of his teachers, Suzanne Goulet, who teaches Traditional, Digital and Emerging Arts, suggested that I take a look at a video that CJ recently made. She knows how much I love the snow and that I’d be interested in what this student has been spending a lot of time on – making snow! Unlike me, CJ has a way to make snow when we don’t have any naturally. I took a look at the video and received an email from CJ.

http://youtu.be/VCGUrQrnp0U

CJ has a blog of his own called Maine Snowmakers: a blog about Home Snowmakers in Maine. His blog is includes several outstanding photos and a clear picture of making snow! And, he has a youtube channel with other videos and invited me to stop by and see the snowmaking gun in action!

What has inspired you to want to make snow?

Each weekend I go skiing with a group of friends at Sugarloaf. All my life I had been interested in ski lift mechanics and ski area operations. While we were riding the skyline lift up at Sugarloaf on December 10, 2012, my friend told me about another friend from Freeport who makes snow and suggested that I meet him. Below us on the lift there was a mystery child (perhaps about 14 or 15 years old) dragging about 15+ snowmaking hoses down the trail with Sugarloaf snowmakers.

Phone calls, and multiple extensive researches later, I was making my own snow in the backyard with just a pressure washer. I only ran .5 gallons a minute then but at the time it was great just seeing this cloud of white in the sky come from (my efforts). I loved it ever since, and on March 15, 2013, I made snow with my own home built snow gun, called a tee gun. By the next season I had built an even bigger snow gun doing 1.5 gallons a minute during the 13-14 season. Last summer was the biggest upgrade season yet. I installed 200 feet of pipe through the ground, built my own water pump that puts out over double what I did last year making around a foot an hour. I’ve also built my own air demoisturizer and added a second air compressor. As of January 8, 2015 I’ve used 10,000 gallons of water.

How did you get started with snow making? (the mechanics of it)

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 7.31.18 PMI started with a simple air/water snow gun called a tee gun in March 2013, and in 2013-2014 I upgraded to a combo gun. A combo gun has at least 2 nozzles, all mine have 3 total nozzles. On my snowguns the bottom nozzle is an air/water mixture while the top 2 are just water. The air/water nozzle is called the Nuc nozzle and top 2 are called the bulk nozzles. The Nuc nozzle creates a fine mix of ice, the bulk nozzles spray a fine mist of water. When (the temperature is) cold enough the water mixes with the ice and it crystalizes to form snow. The Nuc nozzle is key because without the ice there is nothing for the water to bond and crystalize to.

Are you a skier or involved in other winter activities? If so, what?

I am a backcountry skier up at the ‘loaf. I’ve been skiing ever since I was 2. Skiing is really my life, my life literally revolves around the weather. When its cold I’m always pumped to go make snow. Or when a snowstorm comes I jump around the house with joy and send photos and videos to everyone I ski with.

What do you do in your free time?

Honestly, all I do is make snow, when I’m not making snow in the backyard I’m out at Quarry Road making snow at the Waterville Recreation Center were I (volunteer to) help run 20 HKD snow guns. I also have a strong snowmaking connection with Sugarloaf and Eaton Mountains.

Has your formal schooling influenced in any way with your making of snow?

Not really, everything with snowmaking has been self-taught. The mechanics of it are self learned. Every design needed, came from hours of thinking to create the best possible design for what I’ve needed. Almost 100% of the things I’ve built have been thought of and designed in school while (in other) classes.

Who has supported you in pursuing your interest?

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 7.31.34 PMMy friends have definitely supported me. My friend from Freeport and I are best friends now. We literally swap equipment back and fourth like nozzles, hoses, pumps, you name it. Each fall we do mega snowmaking runs at his house where we combine our equipment to make as much snow as possible. Then in the spring we come to my house for the Bug Mega Run. This past fall we used nearly 3000 gallons in an 8-hour period and covered his entire hill, top to bottom, with 9+ inches of snow for a rail jam the next day with 6-8 (guys).

How do you (if in any way) apply what you are learning in school to your passions/interests outside of school?

There is only one subject I’ve applied into snowmaking from school and that’s filming. I make a ton of videos on snowmaking and do lots of photography. Snowmaking is very math and science based but what we learn in school (is different from this real-life application of) snowmaking. Teachers love the snowmaking thing but I don’t think they really understand the magnitude of time and effort it takes. You could do an entire science unit on snowmaking from water droplet sizes at given pressures and cohesion and adhesion, PSI, GPM, CFM, flow rates and on and on.

What are your plans for after high school?

My plans after high school are to go into ski are management. I’m looking at Lyndon State College right now.

Please provide any information about your art class or Ms. Goulette and how art has influenced or impacted you and your snowmaking passion.

Art has impacted me from doing cool designs for my backyard park. Like the iconic forest park pine tree I stenciled on to literally every rail/box. It’s even on my big ramp. Art has also helped me with drawing and designing my projects. Ms. Goulet has definitely been a huge supporter of my snowmaking set up.

These innovative real-life applications can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCGUrQrnp0U

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