Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 26, 2013

Wintry blast nudges ski slopes to open early

BY NATHAN PAYNE npayne@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The heavy snowfall and cold weather that elbowed its way across northern Michigan means more than just headaches for commuters and shivers for Black Friday shoppers.

It’s also a blessing for the ski industry.

Piles of fresh snow that continued to fall Monday across northwest Michigan helped catapult area ski slopes to one of the earliest season starts in years.

“I’m looking out my window right now and can see maybe 200 yards,” said Tom Kramer, spokesman for Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa. “We operate at the will of mother nature to a large degree. This will be the first November opening we’ve had since 2007.”

And, the cold and snow won’t likely end before skiers have a chance to hit the slopes during the long holiday weekend. Snowfall is expected to continue through Thanksgiving.

“Just a couple inches every 12 hours,” said Meteorologist Andy Sullivan of the National Weather Service’s offices in Gaylord. “It’s just continual lake effect and lake-enhanced snow.”

Crystal Mountain, along with almost every ski hill in the region, was running its snow guns non-stop to prepare as many runs as possible for its opening day. The resort will open on Thanksgiving day from noon to 5 p.m., a handful of weeks earlier than the past few years, Kramer said.

The Mt. Holiday Ski Resort in Traverse City benefited from the early cold and snow as well. The cold weather put work on opening the ski area two weeks ahead of normal, said Michelle Konstanzer, events coordinator for the resort.

“I’ve never seen snow like this in Holiday Hills,” Konstanzer said.

She’s lived in the neighborhood her entire life.

“When the snow comes out like this, our phones are ringing off the hook,” she said.

The resort could open Dec. 14, which is two weeks ahead of last year’s first day.

The early opening could mean an economic boon to the region that depends on seasonal tourism.

“I don’t think I can remember a time in my whole 30 years that it’s been this cold this early,” said Robert Kuras, president of the Homestead Resort in Glen Arbor. “It’s been hugely beneficial.”

The resort will not open before its planned first day in mid-December, but it will have a substantial amount of snow built up for skiing before customers arrive. By Monday morning, snow guns had been running for 90 hours at the resort by Monday morning, Kuras said.

The solid start means 150 people employed at the resort are earning paychecks weeks earlier than they have in recent years.

Weekend snowfall reports from across the area touted tallies as deep as 10 and 11 inches near Fife Lake and Lake City, Sullivan said.

That snow will be joined by a few inches during each of the next four days. Cold temperatures will linger with highs not passing the freezing mark until at least Sunday, Sullivan said.

“Keep your bathing suits in the closet for Black Friday,” he said, adding that this week’s weather is a massive departure from a year ago. “We had temps in the 50s and 60s on Thanksgiving day last year.”