Interview 3 – Florent Jacquemoud (Les Arcs, France)
1. Why did you decide to work in this sector? Was this a vocation, a dream from the start?
Being born in a mountain region and skiing since I was young, I could hardly bear to see winter arrive late and not being able to ski in the best conditions. So the day the first snowmaking system arrived in my hometown's ski resort, my dream came true ... It still took ten years to arrive in the business. At first it was more out of curiosity: How does it work? I thought it was magical! And one opportunity allowed me to get in, to discover the aspects of the snowmaker’s job. The job, equipment and facilities evolving very fast, I decided to leave the lift part to devote myself entirely to snowmaking.
2. What exactly do you deal with? And for how long?
My position within the company ADS (ski area of Les Arcs / Peisey-Vallandry), is Head of the Snowmaking and Grooming department. My job is to manage the department in order to offer and to guarantee to our customers quality snow cover throughout the season. I'm in this position for over a year. I was also responsible for snowmaking department in 2 different ski resorts before and held this position for almost 12 years.
3. What do you like most about your job?
What I like about the job is my job simply! There is no routine; each season of the year is different. We must always anticipate the coming winter, optimize the facilities, produce the “right” snow and guarantee our clients the best snow conditions. A real daily challenge and a permanent questioning... The diversity of equipment, technologies, construction works and their regular developments make it a very rewarding and interesting job. Moreover, the fact of working with passionate teams (snowmakers and groomers) is a pleasure and makes my job even more attractive.
4. How is your normal working day?
The routine does not exist ... nor the usual work day! We must always adapt to the weather, to building sites, to the constraints of each one.
In general, during the winter, I love meeting the Snowmaking and Grooming teams in the morning to debrief on the work done during the night. A field visit during the day is one of the required moments to see by myself the snow conditions. I also take the time to analyze, through the control software, the snow production and grooming data. With all the information collected during the day, which I’m able to synthesize, we exchange in the evening with the managers of the other departments of the ski area to refine production and optimize snow grooming needs. Upon completion of the plan, I transmit the tasks to the snowmaking manager and grooming manager. Communication during this period is very important.
During the summer, my day splits up between construction site supervision, a big administrative part, project management and meeting with the head of the snowmaking crew on the maintenance progress of the installation. We work altogether with the snowmaking team on the optimization of our installation: team work is a very important.
5. How did snowmaking change in recent years?
Snowmaking has evolved a lot in recent years. Indeed, technology played an increasing role in snowmaking installations in order to secure increasingly important snow production output, to save energy and to increase the reliability of these facilities. The job of snowmaker has evolved at the same time. Today, the job profile has evolved toward more technical profiles. However, despite all these technologies that have permitted to reach a more and more reliable snowmaking, the role of snowmaker, in following up the snow production, is still essential to ensure the best quality of snow.
6. How do you spend your off-season months?
The offseason is for me the key period for the snowmaking installation. This period is essential in order to be prepared to produce snow in the best conditions and above all, not to miss the few cold hours early in the season. Winter can be seen as the reward of the job carried out during the summer ... In Les Arcs, all the snowmakers are here year-long. We have no seasonal workers currently. Indeed, during the offseason, we must anticipate as much as possible the following winter, and even the next few seasons after.
In that respect, part of the time is used to analyze the performances of the system during the previous winters. This analysis allows us to optimize our installation and to prioritize maintenance operations (about 5000 hours of maintenance annually).
In addition, each year we try to conduct system expansions to guarantee our customers a high quality skiing terrain. A big part of my time is therefore used for the management of short and medium term projects, monitoring of maintenance and optimization of the installation, following-up our snowmaking dam and reservoirs, as well as managing the team. Before the production period that starts in early November, we test the installation completely throughout the ski area (2-3 weeks).