By Ashley Lodato
Fifth-grader Kenny Hussey brought a strawberry-rhubarb, a pecan, and an apple pie to class at Methow Valley Elementary last Tuesday (March 14, or 3.14) for — you guessed it — National Pi Day. The students ate the pies at — you guessed it — 1:59:26 p.m.
Methow Trails groomer Mike Pruett got behind the wheel for his final regular grooming shift on Friday night. For many years Mike has been one of the Methow Trails’ staff who goes out into the wee hours every night all winter to lay down a skate platform and classic tracks on the trail system.
Grooming shifts are cold and dark, and in the early season when the snowpack is light, grooming involves driving a snowmobile for eight hours through winter nights. Grooming is solitary work, save for the occasional radio call from a groomer in another area. But grooming suited Mike, and Mike suits grooming, as anyone who is familiar with his meticulous care of the Winthrop area trails will attest. Says Methow Trails program director Danica Ready, “Mike is a five-star member of our staff. He will do as many grooming passes as is needed to get it right!”
Ready also refers to Mike as a “renaissance man,” and those who know Mike’s work on various nonprofit boards, as well as his varied employment history throughout the valley, will agree: Mike’s talents are many and diverse.
Like most other groomers, Mike has seen some unusual sights out there on the trails in the hours between dark and dawn (many of them unfit for print in a family-friendly newspaper). Now that he doesn’t have to go to bed at 8 p.m. to be ready for a midnight grooming shift, you might have a chance to get him over for dinner to hear some of these stories.
For his final shift, Mike looked quite dapper: crisp white shirt, felt hat, floral bow tie. And, of course, the smile that I imagine nearly always lights up his face, no matter the circumstances.
There wasn’t much fanfare for Mike as he climbed into the groomer for his last shift. Just the familiar hum of the Pisten Bully’s engine, a circle of light illuminating the trail ahead, and behind him, a shining ribbon of white corduroy: Mike’s nightly gift to Methow Valley skiers.