Ben Powell: PistenBully Magician and Master Mechanic

There isn’t a machine at the Kincaid bunker that Ben Powell hasn’t taken apart and put together again. Hired as a full-time mechanic and groomer in October 1992, Ben knows all there is to know about the equipment and how to groom trails. Perfect tracks and corduroy have become the norm on NSAA trails in large part due to his expertise.

After skiing for Chugiak High School, Ben worked for Alaska Trail Services from 1981 to 1988, performing grooming, equipment maintenance, and trail upgrades on the ski trails at Beach Lake Park and Edmonds Lake in the Chugiak area. The club hired Ben to set track for the U.S. Masters and Junior Nationals events in Anchorage in 1991 and the World Masters events in 1992. That led to a full-time job with NSAA, which turned into a 30-year career.

As NSAA’s operations expanded to a fleet of PistenBully grooming equipment, so did Ben’s skill as a mechanic. He attended specialized training needed to maintain these high-end machines. Other equipment that required his attention and upkeep included trucks, chainsaws, snowmobiles, and track-setting drags. As operations supervisor, Ben trained his crew in techniques to set the best tracks for any conditions, developed a grooming strategy that prioritized which trails should be groomed first, and created a Trail Report hotline to keep skiers up to date on ski trail conditions. Due to his involvement rebuilding the Bartlett trails a portion of those trails was named “Powell’s Path” in his honor.

Trail work is a year-round activity. Ben and his crew spent their summers clearing the trails of fallen trees that had succumbed to spruce bark beetles, mowing, widening trails, and clearing new trails. When not on the trails, Ben could be found at the Kincaid bunker breathing life into aging equipment. For many years, Ben would greet NSAA members at the October meeting with his homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Ben retired from NSAA in 2020 after almost 30 years as NSAA’s master mechanic and groomer.