Boulder, CO, Mar. 2--"President's Weekend--Wow! It was our biggest weekend of the year, if not the best ever." That reaction from Amy Frischmon, vice president of Wild Mountain Ski & Snowboard Area in Taylor Falls, MN pretty much sums up the feelings of resort operators across the Midwest.
Bolstered by timely dumps of fresh snow and by a solid January, the mid-February President's Weekend not only drew record numbers of skiers to the slopes, but also highlighted one of the best Februarys in Midwest skiing history.
"We wish we had more presidents like Lincoln and Washington so we could keep on celebrating. It was two weeks of great, record-breaking business," said Barry Godwin, director of marketing at Shanty Creek in Bellaire, MI.
The "most improved" award goes to Tyrol Basin in Horeb, WI, with a stunning increase of 240 percent over last year. Tyrol expects that number to help it post a record season, up 15 percent. Not far behind was Skyline Ski Area in Grayling, MI with a 100 percent increase for the President's Weekend, noteworthy until you realize that Skyline's overall YTD is up 106 percent over last season.
Other resorts in the region also reported impressive gains. Caberfae Peaks in Cadillac, MI was up 90 percent over last year's President's Weekend, and is well on its way to a record season. Chestnut Mt. in Galena, IL was up 12 percent for the weekend, Boyne Mountain in Boyne Falls, MI was up 10 percent, and two of Michigan's upper peninsula resorts, Indianhead in Wakefield and Ski Brule in Iron River described their weekends as "amazing" and "tremendous."
In addition to overall weekend business, several one-day records were shattered, too. Briana Schaub, marketing director at Spirit Mountain in Duluth, MN noted that a week before President's Weekend a foot of fresh snow fell on the resort. "We had a record revenue day on President's Saturday. We haven't had a better day in the 25 years that we've been open!"
Northwest lower Michigan also set some records. "Business was huge," said Jim Bartlett, general manager at Nub's Nob in Harbor Springs,MI. "We had a one-day attendance record on Saturday, up 22 percent over the previous record. I have never seen an increase like this in my almost 30 years in this business. This February will be our biggest ever, following our biggest January ever." Proving that President's Saturday was no fluke, Crystal Mountain near Thompsonville, MI also set a one-day resort record as over 4,000 skiers eclipsed the previous high set on New Year's Day 1999.
Southeastern Michigan made the most of a 5" snowfall on President's Friday, as all four ski area general managers described the weekend as 'a real bonus.' Mt. Holly in Holly, MI, for example, had over 8,000 skiers hit its slopes from Friday to Monday. "Business has been great at Mt. Holly all year," said general manager Mark Tibbitts. "Ski conditions have been steady and we haven't had to fight to keep snow on the hill. We're up about 8 percent this season over last season."
And even though ski resorts in the far southern reaches of the region were plagued with rain over the President's Weekend, the season itself has not been a washout. For example, Rick Bryan, president of Seven Oaks Recreation, a small ski area in Boone, Iowa, noted that this President's Weekend was not as good as last year's, but his ski area has seen a 50 percent increase in this season's totals over last year.
Even with a stretch of abnormally warm weather following President's Weekend, making March skiing in the Midwest questionable, it looks like the region's resorts and skiers will look back at 1999-2000 as a banner ski season.