Grooming Innovator Otto Wallingford Dies

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Auburn, ME Jan. 3--Otto Wallingford, one of thefounders of Lost Valley Ski Area in Maine and the inventor of the PowderMaker grooming device, died Sunday. He was 76.

Using land that connected their two parcels, Wallingford and Dr. CamilleGardner opened Lost Valley Ski Area in 1961, primarily so Wallingford wouldhave something to do in winter-downtime for his family apple orchard. AtLost Valley Wallingford, who had a degree in agricultural engineering, puttogether the state's first snowmaking system and introduced Down-Easters tonight skiing. But his biggest contribution to skiing came in 1971 when hestarted towing a cylindrical steel grate behind a tractor to convert hardsnow crust into groomed powder. The Powder Maker became an essentialgrooming tool and was the signature product of Wallingford's new company,Valley Engineering, which he sold in 1975.

"The Powder Maker was as important an innovation in the '70's as the tilleris today," says Greg Sweetser, executive director of Ski Maine. "Otto wasan important part of the Grand Era of the sport. . . . He certainly was theinnovator in snow farming." Wallingford had always been a presence at LostValley even though he and Gardner sold the ski area in 1988.

"The guy was a genius," says Connie King, general manager at Lost Valley.She describes Wallingford as a valuable local asset for his advice on allaspects of running a ski area. He was known for a mind constantly workingon creative solutions to common problems. Wallingford, who also developedinnovations in harvesting apples and worked as a fishing guide, is survivedby his wife Margaret, five children and six grandchildren.