Ski centers offer opportunities for those ready to hit the slopes

Skiers and snowboarders make their way down the slope on opening day at Royal Mountain Ski Area in Caroga. Royal Mountain is fully up and running with all trails 100 percent open. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)

When a skier sees green or brown in his backyard, he may think there’s not much skiing to be had.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Area ski centers have plenty of opportunity right now for those who want to hit the slopes or go cross-country or snowshoe.

“We’re 100 percent open — all trails, all widths are 100 percent open,” said Jim Blaise, owner-operator of Royal Mountain Ski Area in Caroga.

So far the turnout of skiers “is better than it’s ever been,” he said.

The snow base is more than two inches, and cold night temperatures have maintained that base, he added. When daytime temperatures are in the 30s with clear skies, it’s a bonus for skiers.

The resort has added six snow guns to bring the total of its snow makers to 27. “We can make tons of snow,” Blaise said. The area also got “quite a bit of natural snow,” he added

The center opened before Thanksgiving and is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

When Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center in Northville opened on Nov. 14, that was its earliest ever, said Kathy Zahray, co-owner with her husband, Paul. Typically the center can stay open to mid-April.

The center caters to snowshoers and cross-country skiers. It’s gotten 21 inches of snow so far, which is good since that kind of center doesn’t make it’s own snow, she said.

The trails have a depth of two to four inches with 10 kilometers open for skiing and 12 kilometers for snowshoeing. The company is continuing to groom the trails — potentially 36 kilometers.

Rain isn’t a problem because after the water freezes, the center’s machines can churn up the snow. “We’re just hoping for more snow so we can open more trails,” she said.

Cross-country skiers have a choice of flat trails or expert trails with more slope. When Sacandaga Lake is frozen and has snow on it, skate skiers can also use those areas.

The center has lessons for newbies and rental equipment.

“We’ve had a lot of people come in for season passes,” Kathy said.

Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing is “exercise and it’s fun,” she said.

“It’s been flurrying around here, and it’s beautiful.”

Laura O’Brien, an owner of Oak Mountain Ski Center in Speculator, said “snow conditions are great” and the center is experiencing a steady flow of new and returning visitors for skiing, snowboarding and tubing.

The center is opening trails with its increased snow-making capacity but other trails “need a little help from Mother Nature,” she said.

The temperatures have been milder than last year so people aren’t afraid to be outdoors. The public isn’t being warned “don’t go out, it’s too dangerous,” she said, recalling that it was minus-12 degrees last New Year’s Eve.

Except for snow turning to sleet and freezing rain and then to rain into Friday, Dec. 28, no appreciable snow—less than an inch — is expected over the next seven days, said Dan Thompson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. High temperatures should fluctuate between the 30s and 40s, he said.

By Josh Bovee

Leave a Reply