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A Snowday at NHPR


With another snowstorm in the forecast after a couple of days that hinted of spring, I wanted to share a behind-the-scenes story from the big snow storm that buried New Hampshire a couple of weeks ago. It’s a story that defines intrepid. It also speaks well of the state of neighborliness in our Granite State.

On Monday evening Feb. 7, the manager of our technology team, Ferd Bartolozzi, let me know that the translator in Colebrook – the equipment that extends our signal to the northernmost reaches of Coos County – had been knocked of the air. Our remote monitoring systems could shed no light on what was wrong, so Scott Paxson, our transmission engineer, had headed up to take a look.

Scott – who it’s worth noting had joined NHPR last summer after a long radio career in Florida and Texas – takes over the story here (in his characteristically deadpan manner).

Scott Paxson
Selfie by Scott Paxson, NHPR
Scott Paxson

“The root cause of the failure was that a satellite receiver needed to be rebooted,” Scott reported. “This turned into two days of effort, because the very poor Internet service at the site kept me from using our remote control equipment. Normally, this task is done from my laptop.

“I drove to Colebrook with the expectation I could slog through the snow for the half-mile distance off the main road. I also thought it possible the neighboring tower owner would have plowed the road.” But no, Scott continued.

“All was hopeless, as the depth of the snow was nearly waist high,” he said. “A passerby saw me and offered help with his snowmobile. He got stuck during his test run. Two rescuers were called. One of them got stuck. Finally, as nightfall neared, all were safely off mountain.”

Before they parted, “the first man took my number and told me to expect a call from an associate at the ATV club who had the proper equipment to escort me to the summit. We made an appointment to go up at first light.”

As you read on, remember that this is Scott’s first winter in New Hampshire….

“I took of photo of the machine I rode in this morning, because my full description would sound like exaggeration without it. This was an enormous robotic looking contraption. The cab was 3 long steps above the ground,” Scott said.

Scott Paxson, NHPR
ATV "The Snow Buggy"

“NHPR has its own snow buggy (for lack of knowing proper terminology). I’m doubtful it would have gotten through what I had to get through this morning, however,” he continued. [Note to readers: It’s an ATV.]

“Finally, at the top, I rebooted the satellite receiver and inspected the site generally. I didn’t see any other problems.”

So thanks to Scott – and some kind members of the Swift Diamond Riders, a volunteer group based in Stewartstown that maintains North Country snowmobile trails – NHPR service was finally restored in the greater Colebrook area.

Once he was back at the station in Concord, Scott offered this reflection: “What impresses me as I travel through the state is how often I run into NHPR fans. The first passerby knew why I was there, because he wasn’t able to listen that day.”

Just another day in the life of the people who keep NHPR on the air statewide 24/7/365 – a group that includes not just our staff, but sometimes our loyal listeners, too.

Jim Schachter is New Hampshire Public Radio’s president and chief executive officer, guiding the vision and strategy for the organization and leading a team of more than 60 staff advancing NHPR’s public service mission.
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