Wash. snowmaker laying powder for Winter Olympics

WENATCHEE, Wash. (AP) - Wenatchee snow-making expert Jon Wax is one of a handful of snowmakers worldwide who's laying the powder on the slopes above Sochi, Russia, for the upcoming Winter Olympics.

The 42-year-old snowmaking manager at Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort left for the Black Sea resort city Dec. 1.

He'll stay until early February or longer, if more snow is needed during the Feb. 7-23 competition.

"This definitely feels like a big deal, and I love it," Wax said Wednesday by email from Sochi. "I am working with a team from Russia, New Zealand and America. Many of these men and women have made snow all over the world. There is a sense of pride and unity among all of us."

Sochi has a sub-tropical climate with winter high temperatures that average about 50 degrees. Alpine ski events take place some 25 miles away and up at Rosa Khutor, a ski resort in the Caucasus Mountains. The summit elevation there is about 7,612 feet. The summit at Mission Ridge, by comparison, is 6,820 feet.

Wax has made snow at Mission Ridge for 15 years. He was invited to Sochi, all expenses paid, by a friend who works for Michigan-based SMI Snow Makers, the company supplying the snowmaking equipment for the Olympic event.

"I have known some of the SMI guys for years and was asked if I wanted to come to Sochi. Of course I did!" he said.

Wax's family is originally from Wenatchee, but he was raised in Corvallis, Ore. He was making snow at Copper Mountain, Colorado when he moved back here to take a job at the Ridge. He was expecting to stay only a couple of years, but said he ended up falling in love with the mountain, the valley and the people here.

He also met and fell in love with his future wife, Melissa, in Wenatchee. They have a 6-year-old daughter, Olive.

"The Russians are great to us and treat us very well," he said. "I enjoy making snow here, and everywhere."