Winter has been uphill climb for ski resort

Photos by Ariana van den Akker/The Herald
Skiers and snowboarders rode down Graber’s Express run Tuesday afternoon at Paoli Peaks Ski Resort in Paoli. The ski hill opened Monday with limited terrain. Because of December’s unseasonably warm temperatures, Paoli Peaks hasn’t had as much time as normal to produce snow.

By SAM STITES
sstites@dcherlad.com

PAOLI — With winter weather finally arriving in southern Indiana, Paoli Peaks Ski Resort was able to open three of its trails Monday with more opening throughout this week.

With regional temperatures dipping below freezing overnight each of the past five days, Paoli Peaks is able to operate its snow guns to cover more of the Orange County park’s terrain each day. Dozens of skiers and snowboarders showed up Tuesday to check out the first trails, with two lifts operating throughout the afternoon and into the evening.

Lauren Grenier, Paoli Peaks’ director of marketing and administration, said the staff usually starts making snow sometime in late November, but warmer temperatures throughout much of December delayed the opening.

Josh Keeling, left, and Codey Mahurin, both of Louisville, strapped into their snowboards at Paoli Peaks.

Making snow is a fairly easy process, Grenier said. Snow guns are essentially big fans that push water through the blades creating a mist. With temperatures below freezing, the mist solidifies into snow. The snow guns are strategically placed by crews in order to cover the resort’s terrain where need be, and 12 solid hours of snowmaking can cover the resort’s 65 acres with 1 foot of snow. Base depth on open trails varies between 2 and 3 feet.

“It’s limited terrain right now, but as we have more snow-making we’ll be able to open more trails,” Grenier said.

Grenier said Paoli Peaks officials are looking to have everything open by Friday. That’s when they will co-host what’s being termed the World’s Largest Ski and Snowboard Lesson along with other resorts across the country. The event is being put on by the Learn to Ski and Snowboard initiative, a national organization that seeks to bring youth and adults who have never tried snow sports the opportunity to hit the slopes.

Grenier said lessons will commence at 10 a.m. local time at resorts from Maine to California in hopes of setting a mark recognized by Guinness World Records. Despite wet and warmer weather predicted for Friday, Grenier is expecting a good turnout in Paoli.  

“Resorts can achieve awards for the single largest lesson by resort, but the goal is collective for all resorts,” Grenier said. “Because we’ve had such a delayed start, a lot of people are hesitant to purchase passes or sign up (for lessons), but I’m anticipating a lot of people showing up this week because now we’ve been able to make some snow.”

Bill and Sandra Stout of Orlando, Fla. helped their daughter Anjali, 3, into her skis on Tuesday afternoon at Paoli Peaks. Anjali got her skis and snowsuit for Christmas and Tuesday was her first time skiing.

Phil Mundy, owner of the local outdoor retailer Adventures Recreation and Gear in Jasper, said this season’s weather has played a weird role in his business. When he’d normally be selling jackets and cold weather outerwear, his biggest sales have been in cycling gear throughout the month of December.

“I got 65 miles (cycling) in this weekend,” Mundy laughed. “You never know what to expect (from the weather).”

With the colder weather finally arriving, he said he’s starting to see a slight increase in jacket sales.




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