Jay Pinsky: Water-quality expert keeps eyes on the snow

Sam Truban

When snow melts, it’s more than just Frosty’s groupies who frown.

It’s people like Sam Truban, a conservation specialist with the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.

“I like anything to do with snow, but I like snowboarding the best,” said Truban, whose love for snow is filtered through the frost-colored glasses of being a college-educated water-quality expert. “I starting out skiing when I was 8 years old, then I switched over to snowboarding when I was 14. There’s so much to like about being on the snow, whether it’s skiing or snowboarding.

“For me, getting to the top of the mountain and looking out over the valley seeing everything from a different point of view makes every trip up there that much better, then coming down the mountain when you’re trying to pick your line down making the turns and traversing the vertical feet in your own way – well, there’s no other feeling like it.”

He’s not alone. You see, while snow may be the bane of a few select winter weather party-poopers, the rest of humanity enjoys the wonderfully white, fluffy, powdery goodness Mother Nature sprinkles on us across the globe during her seasonal cold spells. How could we not? Snow, and the water it’s made from, is a major factor for millions of winter sports enthusiasts who enjoy wintery activities like downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and of course building snow forts for epic snowball fights.

With so many fans of snow, one would think its only ingredient, water, would have more advocates. Truban certainly is, but he is much more than just a snow lover, he’s a frontline water quality advocate. “As a soil and water employee I want to make sure that snow melt doesn’t cause soil erosion or have chemicals on it that could affect water quality and habitat quality,” he said. “Having good clean water so that we can start our snowboard season as early as possible is important.”

Truban’s love for snowboarding and his professional knowledge allow us to understand the role water quality has on snow and what snow’s impact is for our water quality. “Water quality is very important to skiing and snowboarding, especially in the region we live,” said Truban. “We typically do not have enough natural snow to last the ski resorts the entire season. Many resorts have to blow snow throughout the season to build up a solid snow base that will last through the middle of March.  This is where the water quality comes into play because making man-made snow requires lots of water. Having a clean, sediment-free water supply to feed your snow guns is one of the most important things to get the resort started in the winter and last all season long.”

Truban says there are a few places in our region like Bryce Resort and Massanutten Resort to enjoy snow-dependent activities.

“Most all the resorts in the mid-Atlantic use springs or ponds to make their snow during the season and all of them have built good drainage systems to handle the snow melt in the spring to not contaminate the surface and ground water,” said Truban.

Yes, sadly, snow melts, and Truban’s love for the chilly, white powder doesn’t stop when it flows downhill. Another thing that doesn’t stop is his dedication to making sure our snow becomes quality water again. “Think about what the effect of what will happen once the snow melts,” Truban pondered. “Most everything that makes it onto the snow will eventually make it to the stream once the snow melts. Not many people think about what happens to the snow during the ski season.”

Truban does though, along with the rest of the conservation professionals at Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District. Still, it’s Truban who might lean a little more toward protecting a quality snowpack. “Snowboarding for me is something you do to forget about everything else and just enjoy being,” said Truban.

Somehow I highly doubt Truban ever stops thinking about water quality, be it work or play.

If you want to help people like Truban have good snow, contact us at Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District at 540-465-2424, ext. 5 or visit us at www.lfswcd.org.

James Pinsky is the Education and Information Coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.  Contact him at 540.465.2424, ext. 104, or james.pinsky@lfswcd.org.