Scene: A charlift at a ski area out west somewhere.
Skier in chair:” Hey buddy, where are you from?”
Skier in chair:” Where do you ski in Pennsylvania?”
Pat:” Seven Springs Mountain Resort”
Skier in chair(snickering):” How good could it be in Pa?”
Pat: “See those big snowmaking towers over there? If the man from Seven Springs had not invented them, you would not be skiing this early season fluff here, skippy.. You can thank Herman Dupre for your early season western fun. Also the US Ski Team would not be training hard at the Speed Center at Copper Mountain if it were not for HKD Snowmaking.”
I met Herman Dupre, the former owner of Seven Springs, many years ago when I was a young lad. When I would see him on the mountain as I do today, his cheery smile and sparkling eyes always greet me with his standard line, ” Hi Pat- welcome to the mountains.” I have always felt that when I saw Herman, he was truly interested in how I was and that his greeting was always heartfelt. That is the personality of this larger than life man who I have always respected and admired. Herman is first and foremost an engineer and a tinkerer. How many guys do you know that put together their own power plant on the local Youghiogheny River? Or were instrumental in reclaiming wastewater at the resort and using it for snowmaking? I would see Herman from time to time in the coffee shop at Seven Springs and ask him things like,” Hey Herman- why don’t you buy Laurel Mountain and run it as a sister ski area?” Herman would smile and sit me down, buy me a coffee, and tell me,” Pat- I will give you 38 reasons why and began illustrating to me the folly, in his mind, of investing in a state ski area two ridges over.
Another time, I was skiing in the Poconos with my sister and came back excited to tell Herman about the 55 gallon drums that had large funnels attached to the top of the barrels. They served as waste recepticles for people who wanted to drop cans off the chairlift. Once again, Herman sat me down in the coffee shop, bought me a coffee, and explained to me that he knew exactly how much each unit costs to build. He said,” Pat- I can send a guy up there at the end of every shift and clean up all the cans for a lot cheaper that it would cost me to build a bunch of those units.” Once again, the wisdom of Herman and his practicality came shining through along with his wit and his smile. I enjoyed the coffee as well.
Aside from building a ski area and a major mountain resort, Herman’s claim to fame is that he is a pioneer in snowmaking. He always tinkered with how to utilize high pressure air and water to help Mother Nature spread some snow on our local area which is hampered by cyclical warm weather/cold weather events. When you ski in the mid Atlantic, you need some help to keep the slopes open. Snowmaking was the answer and Herman was at the forefront. In 1973, he applied and received his first of many patents, and in 1990, he introduced the standard tower snow gun that was the first of many low energy products that he and his son in law, Charles Santry and his daughter Anni would bring to the ski area management market. If you look at their website, you will find all the technical detail of their tower guns, and their new fan jet technology with their recent acquisition of a Canadian company which has increased their R+D capabilities as well as their engineering expertise. http://www.hkdsnowmakers.com Check out the website because I need to get back to giving you a vision of the founder of all of this.
Herman is obviously very successful but when you see him driving his Subaru or his motorcycle puttering along at the resort, you would think that this is a maintenance guy checking out equipment on the slopes. His flannel shirts and jeans are standard attire and his low key, non-“highbrow” demeanor is most welcoming in this world of recently gained affluence and the attitudes that go along with it. Herman is a working guy and his engineering aptitude keeps his mind fresh even though Herman is well along in years now.
There are new owners currently at Seven Springs and they run the resort a little differently. Skier visits and bottom lines are the drivers now in what is a business atmosphere at this long standing resort. Not that Herman ran it without those considerations, but it is just different now – not saying that it is good or bad- just different. One thing is that Herman knows snowmaking. He still experiments in his workshop up near the area and although his company, now run by the Santrys ( Charles -son in law, and Anni- daughter), no one can discount the influence that he has had. HKD Snowmakers is now the leading manufacturer and engineering company in the business with equipment in resorts worldwide. Automation is big in the industry now and you can see the module components of complete snowmaking systems on the website. But in the back of your mind as you peruse this site, think of the guy who always thought out of the box and how he influenced an enthusiastic young skier back in the day………..and today on the mountain as well. ” Welcome to the mountains, Pat.” That greeting completes that Laurel Highlands experience for me. Think Snow and thanks for reading.