Former Ski Area Ops Student Builds Texas Sledding Hill

Dustin Reichelt, Director of Parks for the City of Levelland, TX, fired up the snowguns to build a public sledding hill this past weekend.

Hundreds of Levelland, TX residents made the most of unseasonably cold weather thanks to the snowmaking experience of a former CMC student

It’s been fourteen years since Dustin Reichelt was enrolled in the Ski Area Operations (SAO) program at Colorado Mountain College Leadville, but that hasn’t stopped him from exercising his snowmaking skills. Now the Director of Parks for the city of Levelland, TX, the former SAO student has made local history by building the first-ever sledding hill in his community.

The historical cold snap created ideal snowmaking conditions, giving Dustin the opportunity to put his snowmaking equipment to work. The Parks and Recreation department was able to produce enough snow to host a weekend-long sledding event.

The city had made plans to offer sledding this winter, but put it off because of the pandemic. When case numbers dropped and some restrictions were lifted, they outlined safety protocols and fired up the snowguns. Each one-hour sledding session was limited to 25 people and sleds were sanitized between sessions. Social distancing was encouraged and face coverings were provided.

“There were 275 sledding reservations made this weekend,” says Dustin, “Everyone was so happy to be there and be together safely. There was a lot of smiling and laughing. Every single child came and thanked us. It was a great feeling to be able to bring that to our community.”

Snowmaking in the Texas Panhandle

The area doesn’t usually get much natural snow, but typical Levelland’s winters are cold enough to allow for night time snowmaking.

“Our winters fluctuate,” says Dustin, “With our dry air and higher elevation at 3,500′ we are used to wild weather swings. We have cold nights perfect for snowmaking and comfortable daytime temperatures for playing outside and sledding.”

Last week’s temperatures in Levelland dipped down to 0* during the cold snap, but high plain’s panhandle community was more prepared than their neighbors to the south.

“Our community is incredibly fortunate,” says Dustin, “We are on a different power grid in this part of the state. It was definitely an unusual weather event, but it wasn’t catastrophic.”

A Career in Public Service

Former Ski Area Operations student, Dustin Reichelt, in front of a man-made sledding hill in Levelland, TX.

Though Dustin was not able to complete his Ski Area Operations degree, he values his time at Colorado Mountain College Leadville and hopes to return one day. The experiences and skills gained at CMC Leadville – including snowmaking operations – have benefited him throughout his 13 year career with the Parks and Recreation Department and the City of Levelland.

“Grooming Operations, Heavy Equipment Operations and Outdoor Emergency Care were some of my favorite classes,” says Dustin, “In fact, I’ve renewed my CPR certification every two years since my original training at CMC in 2004. About a year and a half ago, I saved a child’s life after pulling them out of the lake and giving them CPR.”

Backyard Snowball Fights

Snowmaking has been a hobby for Dustin since he took snowmaking operations class in Leadville. When his son was born, he started getting back into snowmaking, building a small-scale snowmaking operation at home. This winter he’s been able to make snow at home every month since October.

“I started making snow for my son, who is six-years-old now,” says Dustin, “We build snowmen, make snow angles and have snowball fights. It’s everything I learned from Ski Area Operations program but on a smaller scale.”