RIPLEY - The first major snowfall of the year came a little later than normal this year (last Friday), but that hasn't prevented Mont Ripley from preparing for its second-earliest opening on record.
"We're calling it 'going from brown ground to skiing down' in one week," Mont Ripley General Manager Nick Sirdenis said Thursday. "A week ago today it was 60 degrees, then Friday we got that storm and it got cold. ... Everyone is excited. You can't imagine how hard the crew has worked to make this happen."
Many of the 20 crew members, 12 stick eight guns and 8 fan guns were making snow by 7 a.m. last Friday once it hit 27 degrees, and through constant monitoring this past week, enough of the ski hill is ready for business.
Stephen Anderson/Daily Mining Gazette
Mont Ripley, seen here Thursday, will open for the season on Saturday and Sunday, the second-earliest start on record for the Michigan Technological University-affiliated ski hill.
"To tell you the truth, two days ago I was only 30 percent sure we were going to be able to make it for this weekend, and yesterday we looked at the hill and it was quite a bit farther along," Sirdenis said. "We were a little nervous, but we moved the guns to their weakest points on the hill and they kicked butt pretty good this morning and all afternoon."
Mont Ripley's earliest opening came in 2003, two days after Thanksgiving, and only one other time did the Michigan Technological University-affiliated hill open by Dec. 1.
Sirdenis expects the T-Bar to be ready to go, along with "Toot's Tumble" and "That Road" beginner runs, part of "Center Bowl" and some slider boxes. The hill will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday before shutting down to make more snow next week. Barring unusual weather, more of the hill will be open next weekend before shutting down again during the week to make snow.
"Then we'll open up from an every-day point of view on the 15th of December," Sirdenis said.
When the snow guns are working at their maximum capacity, they put out between 1,600 and 1,700 gallons per minute, and that has already yielded a base of 8 inches on the thin spots and 20 inches on the deep areas. While snow making has allowed for an earlier opening, Sirdenis noted what sets Ripley apart is its large quantity of natural snow, which makes for less icy conditions than many ski hills.
"According to the Weather Channel, we are the snowiest city in the Midwest and that's what we're pushing," he said. "That's our biggest claim right now is nobody can have better snow than us. I'm not going to say we have better snow than everybody, but I'm going to say nobody has better snow than us."
For updates on Mont Ripley business hours and snow conditions, visit mtu.edu/mont-ripley, facebook.com/montripley or twitter.com/montripley.