December 3, 2010
Cold brings skiers open slopes
Greek Peak opening Saturday as snow guns at area resorts blast away
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Snowmakers Pete Lyons, left, and Tim Loso adjust a machine Thursday morning on the slopes of Greek Peak Mountain Resort in Virgil. Three trails, along with the Magic Carpet for beginners, will be opening to skiers Saturday.
Employees at area ski slopes are watching their thermometers this week as they prepare for the opening of ski season.
“In this business, when you open all depends on the weather,” said Kevin Morrin, vice president of sales and marketing for Greek Peak Mountain Resort in Virgil. “But we usually aim for the first Saturday in December.”
Greek Peak is the first of the area ski resorts opening for the season Saturday. The resort will have four of its 32 trails open, Morrin said. Greek Peak employees began making snow Wednesday night.
Morrin added that each trail usually requires about a 2-foot base of artificial snow.
“We’re just hoping for consistent weather with lots of snow and consistently cold temperatures,” Morrin said.
As the holiday season approaches, most of the area resorts are starting to get their snow guns ready to pad their trails with pounds and pounds of fake snow. Most of the other resorts are waiting until next weekend to open.
The employees at these ski resorts say that they cannot think about opening until temperatures are consistently below freezing. They all monitor four or five online forecasts and check the Farmers’ Almanac, which specializes in long-range weather predications.
“As always, we just want cold weather, snow and a nice long season,” said Cindy Sisto, office manager in marketing and sales at Toggenburg Mountain Ski Center in Fabius, which plans to have a few trails open next weekend.
The average ski season can be as short as 90 days or as long as 110 days. The peak times include the Christmas holiday and President’s Day weekend in February.
“Starting (ski season) is self-dictated by Mother Nature,” said Rick Bunnell, the marketing and snow director at Labrador Mountain in Truxton, which is shooting to open next Friday or Saturday. “You need long periods of sustained cold weather before you want to open.”
Bunnell said Labrador Mountain usually waits until temperatures are consistently around 25 degrees at night before it will start preparing its trails with fake snow.
Bunnell said the poor economy has not hurt the ski business.
More and more people are choosing to ski locally during the Christmas season instead of traveling west to the bigger ski resorts, he said.
Peter Harris, owner and operator of Song Mountain in Preble, said he has seen about a 7 percent increase in season passes from this time last year. The ski resort is planning a Dec. 11 opening, he said.
“It seems like the downturn has kept more people skiing local,” Harris said.
Harris said getting ready for ski season has always been pretty simple.
“It’s about getting below average temperatures and above average snow. The messier it gets, the better we like it.”
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