Written by Lyndon Froese // Artwork by Seth Heinrichs

If there’s no snow on the ground half way through November, Falcon Lake folks shrug their shoulders. By December 1st, “No snow yet, eh?” enters talk at Lumber One and Liquor Too, the local lumber and everything-else store. Nothing on the ground in mid-December and they’re wondering if, in his white-bearded age, the big guy upstairs has forgotten to turn a leaf in his calendar. But everyone knows the snow will fall before Christmas break, like it does every year – except that one time that it didn’t.

Christmas break is when the Falcon Ridge ski slopes are busiest and without Christmas break, the breakeven operation does not breakeven. So to be sure everything is ready, Ryan “Grease” Gemmel, begins firing up all the equipment in November. The grooming machines and snowmakers always complain a little when awoken from their slumber, but with a little coaxing, they breathe the early-winter air and sputter to life. This past year, Craig even got the seat warmer on the Pisten Bully working!

Well in advance of opening weekend, staff show up. Traditionally, a lot of them have been musicians returning from a summer of touring, ready to put a little money in their emptied pockets.

In the rental shop, you’ll find only the most handsome musicians. Emily is allegedly responsible for this pattern of chiseled jaws and dreamy eyes in the shop. An attendant she hires will wax his moustache and then wax your skis. You’ll approach him looking to get your skis fixed but for the rest of the day you’ll be fixing eyes upon him. Emily makes woodsmen out of them if she can. And, in the springtime after they’ve packed up their banjos and left, she has been known to pine away for those who have proven themselves to be more than just all plaid and no axe.

The year of this story, the year without snow, everyone reported for their shifts as usual. Everything was in place and ready for snow. But, opening weekend came and went. Staff tried to keep busy as they waited around for the year’s first powder, but no snow meant no customers. A lot more washtub bass was going on in the kitchen than actual dishwashing. Instead of tuning bindings, they were tuning guitars. Plenty of rosin was applied to violin bows; not so much to the bottoms of skis.

Out the window, the runs were bare. 

The musicians cared about the resort and wanted to help. One evening as they sat around the fireplace strumming chords, it occurred to them that if snow wasn’t going to bring people to the slopes maybe their music could.

This was the seed of the Snowdance music festival, one of the best things to ever happen to Falcon Ridge. A one-time event to get people to the barren slopes has become an annual festival. Musicians work their shifts on the hill and take breaks to perform. Concertgoers cozy up next to the fireplace and friends can be seen squiggling down the hill, providing a heart-warming backdrop for the music on stage.

Of course, if you run a ski hill you would prefer to have piles of snow every year. No one would choose otherwise. But obstacles have a way of breeding new ideas and the old saying rang true again: “Necessity is the mother of music festivals.”