Snowfall brings a windfall for area skiing businesses

Mixed precipitation last week produced mixed reactions among local ski businesses and the winter spo

Mixed precipitation last week produced mixed reactions among local ski businesses and the winter sports enthusiasts that patronized them Saturday.

While snowfall had been light this season, the sudden influx of a mostly rainy, heavy snow last week invigorated some area skiing operations.

At the Royal Mountain Ski Area, a downhill skiing venue in Caroga Lake, the snow was falling Saturday and skiers were out in force to enjoy it.

“I got here right at 9 a.m., and usually there’s about four or five cars, but today the parking lot was full,” Christine Krempa, the co-president of the Royal Mountain Ski Club said. “The snow storms definitely get people up here.”

The Royal Mountain Ski Club conducted its second annual family fun day at the mountain Saturday. Krempa said her club includes 60 families and there were about 60 youngsters out on the slopes Saturday. She said the event is meant to encourage participation in skiing among young children.

“It’s something different and fun, so they stay interested in skiing. It’s a lifelong sport and it’s great exercise,” she said.

Royal Mountain Ski Area has a tally of the amount of snowfall it has received on a chart inside its lodge. According to the chart, the mountain has received 68 inches of snowfall so far this year.

“Most of that was just this past week,” Krempa said. “Last year at around this time I think they’d had about 148 inches.”

Royal Mountain owner Jim Blaise said the ski season has been good for his business even when the snow wasn’t falling because he produces artificial snow. He said he expected to have about 500 people come through his ski area Saturday.

“Today’s been good. The whole year’s been good, but there’s nothing like snow in the backyard because it really gets people thinking [about skiing],” he said.

Doug Eaton, a manager at Bob’s Trees in Galway, said his business in January shut down the cross-country ski trails it operates because of lack of snow. Saturday they reopened them.

“This snow, had we gotten anymore than we did, it would have been hard for us to reopen because there would have been too much snow. It takes several days of packing and grooming to get the trails set up,” Eaton said. “The only thing is that because this snow is so wet and heavy it isn’t the best for skiing. A drier, lighter snow would have been better.”

Bob’s Trees anticipates the recent snow will enable them to keep the cross-country ski trails open for a few more weekends. Eaton said they never keep them open longer than the middle of March.

“I think because we’ve had the trails closed so long our customer base pretty much hasn’t been skiing. It’s been slow, we’re hoping [today] will be a little better,” Eaton said.

Olavi Hirvonen, the owner of Lapland Lake in Northville, said his business was able to keep snow on its cross-country ski trails even when there was little snowfall by using its 2010 Prinoth Husky snowcat, a device with a rear-mounted snow tiller, 12-way blade and snow compactor. He said his trails are designed for both classic and skate-ski techniques skiing.

Hirvonen said the added snowfall has helped even though it’s been wet snow because the snowcat is able to work with the snow to groom the trails properly. But despite good conditions he said he’s seen no increase in customers recently

“It’s really been excellent skiing but we’ve had less people [Saturday], maybe because people are afraid of driving,” he said.

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