He’s part of the small, select crew comprising Telluride’s grooming department, a group that works tirelessly through the night throughout the ski season to provide the next morning’s early birds with immaculately groomed ski slopes.
It’s not a job for the faint-of-heart, with the frequent whiteout snowstorms, sometimes-difficult terrain, and long hours alone in the cab of a snowcat. But for Parkinson, a groomer at Telluride for 23 years, it’s the best job he can imagine.
“It’s a neat job, probably the best job to have on a ski area… I enjoy going out and putting out the best product that I can as far as making it corduroy edge- to-edge,” he says.
It’s a job he takes pride in, as do all of his fellow groomers at the Telluride Ski Resort, he says. And this year, it wasn’t just the Telluride Ski Area’s early risers who noticed Parkinson’s edge-to-edge corduroy; Colorado Ski Country USA, the trade association that represents 22 of Colorado’s ski areas, honored Parkinson with the Colorado Groomer of the Year award at its annual convention and trade show in April.
Colorado Ski Country USA honors snow-maintenance professionals, athletes, instructors and patrollers from member resorts with annual awards, which celebrate outstanding individuals’ leadership and hard work.
Parkinson specializes in winch-cat operation (for the steepest groomed slopes, snowcats must utilize a cable winch system) and is the main groomer for the Milk Run alpine racecourse.
“It’s a great feeling of accomplishment, being able to build the racecourse at the start of the season, and groom it throughout the winter,” he says.
Parkinson was nominated by Telluride Ski and Golf Grooming Manager Tom Hannahs, who said this about the 2011-12 Colorado groomer of the year: “Steve Parkinson (AKA Parky) builds the best courses for the Telluride Ski & Snowboard Club. This provides the youth of this community the opportunity to excel at the sport of skiing… .When Parky is away from his winch cat you usually can find him cheering on the sidelines of the great course he has put his passion and dedication into building.”
Parkinson started with the Telluride Ski Resort in 1980, shortly after he moved to town. He needed a job, and when then-Mountain Manager Johnnie Stevens asked him if he knew how to operate a snowcat, “I lied and said yes,” Parkinson admits. “I needed a job and I took what I could get!”
He quickly learned the not-so-straightforward ropes of driving a snowcat, and has been an equipment operator ever since; operating snowcats in the winter, and other machinery for Telluride Gravel in the summer. He took eight years off from grooming to build golf courses, but returned to Telluride Ski and Golf in 2000 and has been grooming Telluride’s slopes ever since.
Dave Riley, Chief Executive Officer at Telluride Ski and Golf, maintains that this award “is a big deal in the Colorado ski industry,” and says that Parkinson’s long tenure as a snowcat operator is a boon to the ski area’s grooming department.
“Steve has seen a lot of technological equipment advancements over the decades, and has successfully grown his own skill set over the years as well,” Riley says.
Though Parkinson has received accolades for his role in creating the seamless corduroy skiers enjoy at Telluride, he says it’s the ski area’s entire grooming department that truly deserves recognition.
“I don’t look at myself as ‘Groomer of the Year’ when there are so many good groomers out there. I’m honored to get the award, but there are so many other guys on our crew with 20-plus years of experience that are deserving too,” Parkinson says.
In fact, Parkinson says he believes Telluride has one of the best grooming crews in the industry. He has traveled to ski areas across the nation to watch his sons, competitive mogul skiers, compete, and says he always notices other resorts’ grooming. “And ours is one of the best,” he says. This is thanks to a strong crew of local groomers who have been at Telluride for decades, and who help create an environment of camaraderie that makes the job seem easy, he adds. “We’re not recognized very often,” Parkinson says. “But whether we’re recognized or not, that’s OK – we know we’re good.”