Claus, who was first outed as the source of magically-appearing gifts beneath trees by the American press in 1773 and has been coming to the Deerfield Valley since its towns were chartered, doesn’t rehearse his path in every town each year. “Most of the time when I’m familiar with a place, I don’t need practice,” says Claus. “But when something changes in the landscape, I’ll take an extra jaunt over just to be sure me and the guys know what to expect.”
The “guys” he’s referring to are his herd of eight reindeer, who all have the gift of flight thanks to Claus’ magic. The team of reindeer has been directed by lead navigator Rudolph Rubrum Nasus since 1939, when on a foggy Christmas Eve, Santa called upon Nasus, who has an illuminated red nose, to guide his sleigh. The red nose was so helpful that Claus decided Nasus would be an asset in any type of weather conditions, whether it be snow, fog or clear skies.
Speaking with Nasus, it’s clear that his expertise is as big a resource as his red nose.
“We came to town early this year to make sure we had our bearings on the new wind turbines you all have installed along the ridgeline of the Green Mountains as you look west from Wilmington,” says Nasus, his nose lighting up a bit as he talks. “I wanted to know how my red light would bounce off of the white blades, and I needed to be sure that I was aware of the aerodynamics of the new airspace up there. What happens to the air around the blades when they spin, and how will that affect our flight paths? We needed to figure out what type of maneuvers we needed to make to compensate for that change in aeronautic motion.”
Nasus says that Claus, who Nasus describes as having “some perfectionist tendencies,” probably could have stayed at the North Pole for the dry run, but he refused. “I tried to tell him it was fine to stay home,” says Nasus. “But the week before Christmas, you really can’t tell Santa what to do. He wants to be involved in every step of the process, and that includes flight path rehearsals.”
On Wednesday morning, worlds away from the harsh windy mountaintops where the wind turbines rest, Santa is taking a rare moment of quiet in his home at the North Pole, which is best described with the simple terms “warm and cozy.” With his fingers wrapped around a mug of peppermint hot cocoa, he looks out as picturesque snowflakes fall between him and a nearby building where Claus can see elves feverishly working on last minute gift preparation.
“They’re incredible, all of them,” Claus says of the elves, with deep admiration in his voice. His praise for “the guys” is high, too. He credits the reindeer with making it possible for him to achieve his “wild, crazy dream” each year of delivering presents to the world’s children, and he particularly applauds Nasus for his dedication.
“He’s the one who knew we had to go to your town this week,” he says. “He tracks all municipal projects, all new construction, all development. I’m telling you, he’d go to town board meetings if he could, but heads would turn if a reindeer walked in the room.” Claus laughs a hearty laugh. “Imagine how the minutes of that meeting would read?”
Claus says wind turbines in particular are something that have been on his and Nasus’ radar. “It’s funny we should be talking about wind turbines,” he says. “When these things first started popping up, Rudolph was immediately into it, learning the science of it all, calling up NASA.”
Nasus’ main concern was that he and his team wouldn’t see a wind turbine in their path. A collision with a wind turbine would, to put it lightly, be detrimental to Claus’ Christmas Eve journey, and the disruption would have a ripple effect across the globe as children everywhere woke up with no presents under the tree.
To circumnavigate any issues, at Nasus’ urging, NASA, inspired by Nasus’ nose, developed a red blinking light to be affixed to turbines. The light eventually became an FAA requirement for all turbines over 200 feet tall. “It’s red as a nod to Rudolph,” says Claus. “It’s one of many things that on the books are for something else, in this case airplanes, but they’re really there so I can do what I do on Christmas Eve.”
The words “Christmas Eve” have barely been spoken when he winks, sending a tangible feeling of magic into the air. He notices his magical wink’s merry-making effect and smiles a contented grin, setting his mug down, and announcing that he needs to be off. He has a full day ahead - quality control with the elves, final flight plan tweaks with Nasus, and a few more local appearances around the world.
Nasus says he wishes Claus would scale back on personal meet and greets so close to the big day, but as he said earlier, you can’t tell Claus what to do during the most wonderful time of the year. Claus waves a hand at Nasus dismissively. “Please,” he says. “The best thing about being me is those visits I get to do with the children of each town. It’s the bread and butter of what I do.”
Claus and Nasus are both hesitant to give too close an estimated time of arrival for their trip here on Sunday night, but they anticipate passing through the area sometime between 10 pm and 4 am, depending on what time the valley’s boys and girls are nestled snug in their beds.