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Cool job: Decatur native brings winter wonderland to life

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, December 16, 2017
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Smooth Sliding

SMOOTH SLIDING – Cody Cobb is responsible for making sure the snow slide at the Gaylord Texan runs smoothly during the winter months. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

Most Texans can only dream of a white Christmas and hills with fresh powder to sled down and play in.

Each Christmas season, it’s Decatur native Cody Cobb’s job to make this winter wonderland a reality for thousands. Over 52 days, Cobb oversees the 12-lane, snow tubing hill at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, which produces more than 1 million pounds of snow in the indoor playland.

Now in his eighth year overseeing the project with Peerless Production Group out of Weatherford, it’s expanded to Gaylord resorts in Tennessee and Florida. This year, his group will push people down snowy hills for laughs and thrills more than 2 million times.

“A guy from Decatur doing snow hills for Gaylord properties across three different states – you think, ‘What am I doing?'” Cobb said. “It’s pretty unique. I still think to myself, ‘How did I get here?’ There’s no one else in the world that does an indoor snow hill for 52 days. They may do an ice slide, but there’s no one doing snow for 52 days inside.”

Cobb, a 2000 Decatur graduate, admitted he didn’t dream of building snow hills for a living as a kid. Like many young men, his dreams were of playing ball. He even considered coaching at one point.

While in college at the University of North Texas, he started keeping the books for an events company and soon found himself in marketing, first in the auto industry and later golf.

In 2010, Bryan Lank approached Cobb about a new event he landed at the Gaylord Texan that was to complement its long-running Ice exhibit.

“He calls me up and said, ‘I’ve got a gig for you,'” Cobb recalled. “He said, ‘I’ve got a snow hill at the Gaylord and need someone to run it.’ I said, ‘OK, I can see a future in this. Let’s give it a run. I took it on – a month before we opened.”

And the first year was far from the smooth downhill sledding he offers visitors today. With only a month to prepare and only the stage in place, Cobb dove in, hiring workers and staging the exhibit.

“It was a nice learning curve because you didn’t know what you were getting into,” Cobb said. “Trying to figure logistics, stairs, getting people up, keeping lines down and injuries. 2010 was baptism by fire. I think I lost about 40 pounds trying to get through it.”

He didn’t know if the project would get renewed at first. He said there were some long talks with Gaylord and promises made to revamp it.

The second year proved to be the start of what it is now, with 12 lanes opened at Grapevine and the other sites joining later.

“We had a whole year to plan for it and made it into what it is. We’re going into the eighth year of operation,” Cobb said. “We’ve taken it from one, eight-lane hill to 12 lanes in Texas.”

He now has more than 300 employees at the three sites. But he’s not afraid to jump up on the hill and help out, throwing tubes or pushing people down the hill over the eight-week run.

Those eight weeks are long and stressful and take a year of planning. PPG tears down the hills in a few days in January and takes them back to the warehouse in Weatherford. Meetings are held to review the exhibit. The research and development team thinks up new elements to it. One element added was a snow-throw game. Equipment is refurbished through the summer. The setup starts at Opryland in Tennessee in October followed by Texas and Florida.

“I have a good team surrounding me,” Cobb said.

On the long days, Cobb is quickly reminded that it’s worth it with the screams of joy from children and adults alike as they race downhill in the winter wonderland.

“It’s a tough eight weeks, and it’s stressful. But seeing the smiles on kids’ faces is worth it,” Cobb said.

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