Royal Trail Works founder Tom Wells began his career in the ski industry during the winter of
1976 – '77 at Craigmeur Ski Area in Green Pond, New Jersey. His first employer and mentor
was Craigmeur manager Ray Schank, a former international speed and downhill skier. During the '77 - '78
ski season, Tom was introduced to the world of snowmaking and grooming under the tutelage of mountain
manager Arthur Swain, who had been in the business since the late 1950’s. Snowmaking consisted of a
small pond, a couple low horsepower pumps, aluminum irrigation above ground pipe, and an assortment of
electric fan guns. Grooming consisted of a Thiokol Spryte with a six-way blade and a four speed
transmission. It would pull either a roll or powder maker.
Prior to the '78 -'79 season, Tom moved to Vernon, New Jersey and spent the following five
seasons at Hidden Valley Ski and Tennis Club. Owned by Peggy and Jack Kurlander, Hidden Valley
was the only private ski resort in the United States at the time. It was here that Tom learned the
craft of snowmaking and grooming through a true innovator and snow surfaces pioneer, mountain
manager Bob Polhemus. Given the fact that Hidden Valley was a private area, the snow surface
perfection was second to none, even by today’s standards. From building his own fan guns to
developing a snow moisture probe, Bob was certainly ahead of his time. Tom, a perfectionist himself
says," When it came to snowmaking, Bob would make us dry the guns out and dust the entire trail with
powder hours before opening. He wouldn’t even let us walk through it.” The same was true in grooming;
nothing short of pure perfection was acceptable. At first while operating a Thiokol 2100 Packmaster,
then later a Thiokol 3700, grooming took on a new meaning for Tom.
During the summer of 1983 Tom flew to Burlington, Vermont equipped with a bicycle, touring gear
and a resume, in search of a larger mountain. The first stop was Stowe and the Mount Mansfield
Company. Hired on the spot by Larry Smith and Cal Cantrell, it made for a short bicycle trip and
led to nine wonderful winters in Stowe, Vermont. That first season,'83-'84, Mount Mansfield and
Stowe was still home to members of the old guard, legends such as Henry Siminole, Sepp Ruschp, and
Charlie Lord, true pioneers in the ski industry. It was also still home to the single chair lift
with its cozy blankets for the long ride up.
In the spring of 1992, Tom purchased property in Royalton, Vermont. For the next ten ski seasons,
Tom was a winch cat operator at Killington Ski Area. His expertise with winch cats made him a perfect
candidate to be chosen to groom the Downhill & Super G trails at Snowbasin Resort for the 2002 Winter
Olympics in Salt Lake City.
During the summer months of the late 1970's and 80's Tom spent most of his time traveling. Before
the decade was over he had visited 48 states, parts of Mexico, Canada and Europe. An avid backpacker,
much of this travel was done on foot or by hitchhiking. In 1980, Tom hiked the John Muir Trail from
Yosemite National Park to the top of Mount Whitney at 14,495 feet. This 300 mile trek encompassed
ten passes in excess of 12,000 feet. The summer of 1981 brought an attempt to hike the 2100 mile
Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. The hike was not completed, however, when cold weather stopped the
journey at the 1750 mile mark in Hanover, NH. In 1985, Tom turned his attention to the vast network
of hiking trails throughout the Alps. Beginning in the mountains of Chamoix, France, he crisscrossed
into Austria and Switzerland.
As the 1990's hit, so did responsibility, for Tom and his wanderlust. Upon learning that an entire ski area was in the planning to be built in 1991 in Pennsylvania, Tom decided he had to be part of it. He had spoken briefly with two different companies that had been awarded bids for the work. The first was to construct trails and snowmaking and the second was to build the lifts. Without a definite job lined up from either company, Tom headed to Pennsylvania in search of an exciting summer project. As Tom saw it, "I didn't care if I had a job lined up or not, I was determined from the first time I heard of the Whitetail project that I would be part of it. So I went straight to the construction office and asked a pipe-smoking guy wearing a Carhart jacket and a green tewk if he needed any equipment operators. He said that he didn't but that somebody would be back in a few minutes that did. Well, I didn't know it at the time but that man smoking the pipe was the construction manager for the entire project, Ford Hubbard of Sno-engineering and he eventually changed my life forever." Tom did get a job, hired by Gerry Tatro, building ski trails and the snowmaking system at Whitetail that spring, summer, and fall of 1991. The following two summers of '92 and '93 were also spent working for Gerry around New England. The summer of 1994 brought Tom a local business opportunity that he and some close friends pursued for most of that year.
In the spring of 1995, Ford Hubbard called from Sno-engineering to ask Tom if he would consider
being the construction manager of a 6.6 million dollar ski area renovation project for the Canadian
government in Newfoundland. Without hesitation Tom joined project manager Walter Elander and the rest of
the Sno-engineering team. The project consisted of removing an old double chair lift, widening and
recontouring the lift line trail, installing a new detachable quad chair, building two new trails,
installing new snowmaking pipe, pumps and compressors, and landscaping the ski lodge. It took six
months to complete and was on time and under budget.
The summer of 1996 brought another opportunity with Sno-engineering and a construction management team in South Korea. This project, with it's $35 million budget was known as Jisan Resort. An entirely new ski area designed to complement the recently completed golf course and club house in the mountains of northern South Korea.
After teaching excavation contractors on different continents the art of building ski trails and snowmaking systems, Tom decided to go into business for himself in 1997. Equipped with an excavator, operational talent and his knowledge, the first two summers consisted of building cross-country trails used for the equestrian world in the summer and skiers or snowshoers in the winter.
Royal Trail Works was registered with the state of Vermont as a certified trade name on April 7, 1998 the rest is