Harbor Springs, MI, Feb. 20, 2001--Resorts across the Midwest are reporting the best ski season in the region in decades. Early, plentiful snows and moderate temperatures have combined to make 2000-2001 a record setter so far.
"You can tell we're getting skiers that haven't skied in years because of the antique equipment and outfits we're seeing throughout the resorts," says Pat Deibel, Pine Knob, MI ski school director. "So far things are way ahead of schedule; maybe the decade of winter wonderland is back."
That sentiment echoes elsewhere in lower Michigan. Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands have seen a combined increase of 20,000 skiers over last year. Timber Ridge is having the best season in its 39-year history, Treetops was up 13 percent in December, Crystal Mountain had its top December ever, and Nub's Nob is 10 percent ahead of last season's all-time record.
Ski areas in Michigan's Upper Peninsula depict a similar story, except that the snow totals read like something out of the Rockies. "The snowfall to date is phenomenal, 203 inches as of Feb. 3 and more falling every day," says Sean Lynott, marketing director at Blackjack in Bessemer. "We're up 8 percent over last year," he adds.
Things are cooking across the street at Indianhead Mountain, too. New owner Brett Stangeland notes: "We're coming close to record numbers and still no lift lines. It doesn't get any better than this." And at the U.P.'s newest resort, Mt. Bohemia north of Houghton, skiers are recording monster powder days in the Midwest's largest skiable glade.
Over in Minnesota, Amy Frischmon, one of the owners of Wild Mountain, calls the season 'amazing.' "We are seeing customers that haven't skied in years and they're excited about the sport again." Things are so good at Lutsen Mountains that they're guaranteeing that at least 40 runs will be open through April 15. Further south in the region, the skiing has been just as impressive. Chestnut Mountain in Galena, Illinois has seen skier visits up 35 percent from last year, and with 90 inches of base is looking for a banner February/March. Sundown Mountain in Dubuque, Iowa was running 57 percent ahead of last year until a spate of warm weather, but business is still up 38 percent for the season and with 50 inches of base it promises to remain strong.
Devil's Head in Merrimac, Wisconsin also reports that numbers are up. "Skiing has been good right from the get-go," says assistant manager Peter Kenworthy. "Late February and into March should be great skiing."