Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 19, 2012

Ski resorts hope for snow, cold temps

BY KATHY GIBBONS
kgibbons@record-eagle.com

TRAVERSE CITY — Bing Crosby isn't alone in his lament for a White Christmas.

The region's ski resorts are watching weather forecasts and getting ready to pull the triggers on their snowguns, as soon as temperatures dip to 28 degrees or lower.

Winter storm "Draco" hit the Pacific Northwest early this week and is working its way to the Midwest. The National Weather Service said a likely scenario has a low-pressure system tracking south of northern Lower Michigan, which would mean cold and a distinct possibility of heavy blowing and drifting snow with significant lake effect snow through the weekend.

Bring it on, local ski resort operators said.

"If we lose Christmas week, we lose about half of our operating budget for the whole year," said Theresa Galante, executive director at the nonprofit Mt. Holiday in Traverse City, which is scheduled to open Friday. "We were anticipating being open and going full bore the 21st through the 7th of January. We were counting on those 10 days; we usually do between $200,000 and $250,000 during the 10-day period."

Mt. Holiday has sold about 500 season passes so far this year, said food and beverage director Michelle Konstanzer. Hill officials have made snow a few times, but need colder temperatures to go at it full-tilt. A little of the natural stuff wouldn't hurt, either.

"We've got the guns out, they're pointed, our snowmaking guys are ready and on call," Konstanzer said, describing the recent weather as "kind of like running a tiki bar and having it rain everyday."

Shanty Creek Resorts near Bellaire also plan to officially kick off the season Friday, after opening last week.

"We're definitely not happy with the amount of snow that has fallen and lack of cold temperatures to make the snow. And certainly, rain does not help," said marketing manager Lindsey Southwell. "Our base is holding, but we're not as far into snowmaking as we would like to be."

On Monday, Nubs Nob president and general manager Jim Bartlett said the resort was operating with at least 20 runs, after having 23 open on the weekend. Nubs Nob does about 30 percent of its ski business during the holiday period.

"The forecast for a significant snowstorm arriving Thursday with up to eight inches of snow and four to five days of the coldest air of the season moving in behind it continues to get reinforced," Bartlett said Tuesday. "This will enable us to make snow like crazy and likely be 100 percent open for the holidays."

At Boyne Highlands near Harbor Springs and Boyne Mountain in Boyne Falls, spokeswoman Erin Ernst reported bases in the 16- to 24-inch range Monday. She said the Highlands' 15 trails equate to 200 skiable acres — the most open in Michigan right now.

"Of course, we never want to see any of that drizzly weather, but actually, conditions have held up really well," she said.

She was also excited about the weather forecast.

"(It) would be a welcome sight for the Christmas holiday, adding fresh snow on the slopes and would also allow us to open some of our cross-country trails," she said.

Crystal Mountain near Thompsonville opened Dec. 14 and is operating with one lift and three runs and a 20-inch base, public relations manager Tom Kramer said Monday. Crystal planned to be open Thursday from noon to 6 p.m. and Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

"We'll be making snow whenever we can," Kramer said. "And we'll open additional runs, lifts and terrain as soon as possible."