Archives for posts with tag: early season

With one hard-snow-packed run totaling less than 300 vertical feet, it’s comical that the crowds gliding down the fake snow have been anticipating this unbecoming day for months.

Unlike the mountains of the west, the ski hills in the Midwest do not turn opening weekend into a front page affair.  Most Midwestern hills make their season debut mid-November with one, hike-only run, covered in icy, man-made snow, and littered with miscellaneous park features, and generally only the loyal park rats make it out for the first few open days.  They come in groups, mostly fitted in trendy tight snow pants, coordinating jackets and oversized goggles or sunglasses.  They lug their skis and poles up the couple dozen vertical feet only to take a quick ride down, hit a few features, and avoid the other rats doing the same thing.

Due to lack of elevation and wintery precipitation, the Midwest early season is not determined by total snowfall, but instead by freezing temperatures.  To manufacture snow, resorts need water and cold weather; snow guns are instantly fired up when these two factors are present.  The guns propel fake flakes onto the brown grassy hills. “Our business is very tied to the weather, we’ve had a few cold stretches during November and we’ve taken advantage of them,” said Don McKay, general manager of south-central Wisconsin’s Tyrol Basin Ski and Snowboard Area.

Colin Droster of Madison, Wis. has been anticipating opening days for about eight years and doesn’t mind the faux snow, “it’s better than nothing, plus who can tell the difference after a (snow cat) has groomed it.”

Tyrol tends to be the first Midwest hill to fill a run with snow and park features.  Although McKay says their target-opening day is always the day after Thanksgiving, Tyrol often opens a hike-only run in late October.  This year they opened for the season Nov. 2, “which is pretty early,” said McKay.  From the first Tuesday in November on, Tyrol has sporadically opened their single run and added a run serviced by chairlift, allowing them to open for the season the Friday after Thanksgiving, “prior to the lift being open it was super crowded,” said Droster.  In regard to Tyrol’s ability to fill a few runs with snow and remain open this year, “I’d say things are a little bit better than on track,” said McKay.

This early season, Tyrol was able to build a jump with an eight-foot gap in addition to setting up the usual rails and boxes, “it was radical, first time that I can recall they had a half decent jump set up this early,” said Droster.

Riders flock to make the first tracks of the season at Tyrol Basin from as far south as Chicago, Ill.   Tyrol’s attendance throughout the first few open weeks is “not record breaking, but pretty busy,” said McKay.

 

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Snow is coming early in Illinois, at the 3rd Annual South Side Snow Rail Jam.  The jam takes place Oct. 23 at Millennium Park in Homewood, Ill.  Five dollars to enter, helmets required.  “We bring the snow; you bring the skills or just come out and enjoy the show,” says the H-F Parks District website.