Laura Dean Bennett
Pocahontas County native Ed Galford was recently recognized by the Snow Sports Museum of West Virginia as one of its Class of 2020 Innovators and Leaders in West Virginia Snow Sports.
And it was a well-deserved honor.
His career “up top” at Snowshoe spanned four and a half decades and included many distinguished accomplishments.
Galford is the son of Charles and Jewell Galford, who lived in the Marshall House – a log cabin in Mingo Flats.
When Galford was four years old, the family moved to Clarksburg for his dad’s work and then to Morgantown, where the young Galford attended school.
The family came back every week to visit his mother’s side of the family – in Mingo and Valley Head – and his father’s side, in Clover Lick.
Like most youngsters who grew up in Pocahontas County, Galford learned to appreciate the natural world by fishing, hunting and spending countless hours exploring the hills and hollows around his grandparents’ homes.
During his high school years, Galford worked in his dad’s garage where he obtained a valuable introduction to the mechanics of all sorts of vehicles – from cars, trucks and motorcycles to heavy equipment.
After high school graduation in 1971, Galford attended West Virginia University and began studying to obtain a degree in forestry.
He eventually found himself working a summer job at Snowshoe.
This was back in the day when the young ski resort was being built.
Later that same year, Galford took a job at Snowshoe as a snowmaker working the night shift, and that continued as a part-time job while Galford finished his degree at WVU.
“When I started out working as a snowmaker in December of ‘74, I worked on a crew of five men per shift, plus one groomer operator, from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.,” Galford recalled.
“Back in the early years, we had 12,000 cubic feet of compressed air and 2,000 gallons of high pressure water to operate eighteen to twenty-eight snow guns.”
The night shift crew worked in all kinds of harsh conditions – freezing cold, blowing wind and in the dark of night.
“I remember one night during a snowmaking session in the ’75 -‘76 season, we had something funny happen,” Galford reminisced. “It was on Cupp Run, probably nine or ten o’clock at night, when one of the guys got a pretty good scare.
“Johnny and I were setting up snow guns near the mid station area. Johnny was up hill from me about a hundred yards and all of a sudden he took off running. He ran past me at a pretty high rate of speed, and I heard him yell something about a bear back there.
“Well, Johnny never stopped until he hit the high – low road in the bottom.
“I was looking around at the woods, a little nervous, you know, when I saw it was really just Ralph, our compressor house operator heading down to Slaty Fork, walking home from his shift.
“Ralph was a big guy, two-hundred-eighty pounds, stocky, and he wore a big, heavy coat.
“And he did look like a big old Cheat Mountain black bear, lumbering along beside the ski slope like that.
“Oh, we had a good laugh about that!”
After a couple of years of snow making, Galford graduated to the grooming crew where he was introduced to the art of grooming ski runs and how to handle the big grooming equipment.
“We operated snow groomers – the Tucker Snow Cats – which we used to pull mogul planners and powder makers.
“We also used Thiokol Sprites and 2100 Pack Masters – and one of them had a blade on the front to flatten moguls.
By 1977, Galford had signed on as a full-time snow grooming manager and the adventures continued.
Over the years, Cupp Run – a challenging black run designed by world famous skier Jean-Claude Killy, who’d been hired as a special advisor to the developers of the young ski resort – continued to provide good stories.
For instance, there was the time Galford learned the definition of snowmobile ballhooting [a ballhooter was a logger who rolled logs down slopes too steep and dangerous for horse teams].
“Early every morning, I’d ride the trails on a snowmobile to check the conditions and report back to the ski report writer on how things looked for skiing that day.
“Well, this particular morning I was headed down Cupp and came upon the mid-station lift attendant, his name was Mark, a pleasant fellow about six-foot six.
“Mark sort of reminded me of a giant-sized ZZ Top guitar player, with long blonde hair. He was walking to his work site for the day.
“I stopped my sled and said, ‘Hop on, I’ll give you a ride to the mid-station area.’
“Well, we had a ride alright.
“He jumped on the back of the snowmobile and we took off.
“But with the extra weight, the brakes on that sled wouldn’t stop us, so we ballhooted all the way to the lower section of the ski slope – what we called the Mush Meadow – probably half a mile past his lift station.”
“It was a pretty wild ride,” Galford said, laughing.
Summertime was also a busy time for all the operations crews at Snowshoe.
There was always a lot of pipeline work, snowmaking lines to maintain and repair, ski lifts to rebuild and ski slopes to be constructed and reworked.
And there was a drainage system that was always in need of improvement, along with the endless variety of maintenance work needed to keep the resort property in good order.
One summer, Galford was on the crew that constructed the Powder Monkey ski lift, doing concrete and steel work and installing mechanical and electrical systems that operate the lift.
“That project was a lot of fun,” Galford remembered.
“Each day was a different type of job.
“I learned how to shoot dynamite, work with heavy construction equipment, and I learned how to use surveying equipment.
“We also built the Whistlepunk ski slope that summer. It was one of the beginner trails, and it’s still a very popular run.
“We built a small lake on Shavers Fork – it was seven surface acres – to supply the pump house water for snow making and potable water.”
Galford’s star continued to rise and he became the grooming supervisor, which was a stepping stone to the mountain manager position. In 1982, he was promoted to Director of Mountain Operations, a year before Silvercreek was built.
Galford’s work had him overseeing ski lift construction, trail development, the snowmaking system, road construction and pipeline installation.
During these years, the resort saw dramatic growth – adding more trails for skiers and snowboarders as well as building the Hawthorne Golf Course, in which, of course, Galford had a big part.
In 1995, when the Intrawest Development Group bought Snowshoe, Galford was named Vice President of Mountain Operations and he oversaw operations as the company made a $12 million investment in updated technology and equipment.
Galford supervised the installation of two high-speed detachable ski lifts and a new snowmaking system, the development of a new western slope ski run and the construction of a 40-acre lake and dam.
He also oversaw the establishment of Habitat Conservation Easements and Snowshoe’s Habitat Conservation Plan, which was the first in the State of West Virginia.
“With the increase in the numbers of visitors all year around, we needed to develop more trails.
“We partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the Habitat Conservation Plan, to ensure the safety of the two endangered species on the mountain– the WV Northern Flying Squirrel and the Cheat Mountain Salamander,” Galford said.
“It was approved and implemented in 2002. Snowshoe holds the only two habitat conservation plans in the state, with conservation easements in excess of two-hundred and thirty acres,” he added, proudly.
Galford always had a serious commitment to maintaining healthy rivers and streams in West Virginia and at Snowshoe.
Besides being a member of The Nature Conservancy corporate council and actively involved with several watershed organizations, Galford was also on the Shavers Fork Restoration project’s steering committee, as seven miles of the Shavers Fork were reconstructed to encourage the life cycle of cold-water fish.
Also during Intrawest’s tenure, Galford developed recycling programs and promoted investment in energy-efficient snow making equipment.
His forestry background came in handy as Galford managed the mountain’s large timber acreage with an eye toward sustainability and healthy forest management.
Galford’s passion for outdoor adventure was reflected in his encouragement of outdoor sports and activities at the resort.
Under his leadership, an Outdoor Adventure team was formed to bring more than skiing to the mountain’s guests and homeowners.
Snowboarding, night skiing, terrain parks, a zip line, horseback riding, off road touring, climbing walls, paddle boarding, canoeing, fishing and mountain biking, among many other activities, were developed during Galford’s tenure.
In 2019, Galford retired after a distinguished 45-year career at Snowshoe and lives in Slaty Fork – in the home he built in 1989 – at base of the mountain resort he helped to guide toward its future.
In 2003, he married Winnie McPhee, originally from Evansville, Indiana. Their family includes two daughters, who both attended Pocahontas County High School – Casey Hughes and Greer Hughes – two cats and Winnie’s devoted German Shepherd, Cheat.
Although he doesn’t do much skiing anymore, he still takes advantage of our great trout fishing and he hunts turkey and deer.
“I’m really mostly enjoying retirement at home with Winnie,” Galford said. “I occasionally get on the mountain to visit with old friends, and I still spend a little time on the Elk River with a fly rod.”
“I always loved it up at Snowshoe, and I always wanted to live here,” Galford said.
And what about the infamous cold wind and weather up at elevation 4,848?
“I actually enjoyed the cold weather up top,” he said. “It never really bothered me.
“Just wear lots of layers.”
Galford is especially pleased that his career kept him in Pocahontas County.
“The best things about Pocahontas County are the scenery and the nice cool temperatures,” he said. “We’re naturally air conditioned – and not too many bugs.
“Snowshoe was a great place to work. I met lots of interesting people.
“I especially enjoyed being around the great staff at Snowshoe over the years. They are a special group of folks who love what they do!
“It gives me a sense of pride to know these folks can have the lifestyle they enjoy, and a place in a country where their families have many outdoor activities to enjoy.”