Grooming Innovator, Alta Assistant General Manager

Passing Date: 
Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Snowcat innovator and grooming pioneer Russ Harmer passed away on March 22, 2022, in Salt Lake City, at age 74.

Harmer grew up on a farm in Mapleton, Utah. In 1966, with the seasonal farm operations slowing down, Harmer found work supervising Alta’s fleet of three small snowcats. He befriended Thiokol’s Mike Beeley, and they became instrumental in the design and testing of a new generation of machines designed for snow grooming. Two major innovations were hydro-static drives that allowed operations in steeper terrain and the 12-way articulating blade that rolled and mixed old snow with new to produce an improved snow surface.

Harmer designed Alta’s “Cat House” maintenance building and served as construction manager for the mid-mountain Alf’s Restaurant in 1992. He became Alta’s assistant general manager in 1990 and remained in that position until retirement in 1999. He then launched a construction consulting business and was the project manager in 2000 for the building of the Joe Quinney Winter Sports Center at Utah Olympic Park that now contains the Alf Engen Ski Museum. He also directed construction of the Rustler Lodge chairlift. 

In 2009, the Utah Ski and Snowboard Archives, housed within the University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriot Library, presented Harmer with the S.J. Quinney Award for his contributions to skiing in the Intermountain West. 

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