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Helmut Schmidt, Published December 07 2012

Making snow could smooth way for Fargo sledding hill

FARGO – Brad Wimmer is dreaming of a white Christmas, whether it snows or not.

Wimmer, a city commissioner, wants to give a boost to Old Man Winter by making snow at the Dike East Park sledding hill this winter.

He’s already raised $6,000 in private donations to pay for a snowmaking crew.

Next, he’ll seek a donation of about $1,000 in city water and electricity from the City Commission on Monday, then look for final approval from the Fargo Park Board on Tuesday.

“Last year, the hill was closed about three-fourths of the season. And we’ve kind of gone into this dry winter,” said Wimmer, co-owner of Wimmer’s Diamonds.

“I live close to that dike, and I see that it’s packed every Friday, Saturday night. All day Saturday and all day Sunday, it’s bustling with kids. Why are we letting lack of snow shut that down?” he asked.

Wimmer got the idea driving by the Buffalo River Race Park last winter and seeing the snowmaking for snowmobile races. He then talked to track owner Kevin Nathe about bringing his equipment to Fargo.

Wimmer said snowmaking would fit with Fargo’s Go2030 plan, which includes creating opportunities for outdoor activity.

He’d like to see a foot of snow base down in time for when schools get out for Christmas vacation.

“That’s our main sledding hill in the city, and we’d like to keep it running all winter,” Wimmer said. “I don’t know, other than the bike trails, what is more active than that sledding hill in the winter.”

Wimmer has raised $6,000 from local businesses to pay for Nathe’s work.

He hopes to get a donation from the City Commission for the electricity and 540,000 gallons of water it could take to make up to a foot of snow for a base on the hill. That would be worth about $1,000, Wimmer said.

Park District Executive Director Roger Gress said if the plan works, the Park Board will have to determine whether it will fund snowmaking in the future, continue to rely on donations or buy its own snowmaking equipment.

“It’s hard to make snow here in Fargo Moorhead. No one believes me,” Gress said. “Brad, his heart is right there, to see if he can do something for the kids.”

Nature might beat him to it. The National Weather Service is forecasting 2 to 4 inches of snow today.

Wimmer said if the area gets a foot of snow, “we’d probably just let Mother Nature take over.”

Nathe said the ideal temperature for making snow is about 15 degrees. If there is a potential difficulty, it’s that city water is relatively warm and could make it tougher to make snow.

“If we can get 8 inches to a foot (of snow) on the dike,” it will last all season, Nathe said.

Dave Leker, the Park District’s director of parks, said the idea of snowmaking was discussed several years ago, then dropped after three straight snowy winters.

Leker said the hill attracts a couple hundred children a day with good snow cover. Still, the success of the experiment depends on whether Mother Nature likes local snow bunnies.

“A winter like last year with 50-degree temps, you can lose all the snow you make,” Leker said. “We’re just going to sit back and play it by ear.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

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