Metro Detroit ski hills prepare for the season

By: Maddie Forshee | C&G Newspapers | Published December 22, 2017

 Skiers at Mount Brighton enjoy the slopes.

Skiers at Mount Brighton enjoy the slopes.

Photo provided by the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association

 Skiers ride the lift at Mount Brighton, one of Michigan’s 240 ski lifts and one of the 49 ski areas in the state.

Skiers ride the lift at Mount Brighton, one of Michigan’s 240 ski lifts and one of the 49 ski areas in the state.

Photo provided by the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association

METRO DETROIT — Skiers, snowboarders and snow sport lovers in southeast Michigan are gearing up for the season now that temperatures have dropped. 

Many ski hills and resorts were open sporadically throughout November, but after the temperatures dropped in the beginning of December, the snow is here to stay, and the slopes are expected to stay open. 

“Even in southeast Michigan, (ski hills) were able to open up for the Thanksgiving holiday time,” said Mickey MacWilliams, executive director of the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association. “It got warm, but now it’s getting cold again. It’s a really good start.” 

Even if the weather continues to fluctuate, ski hills will continue to make snow so people can use the hills. 

“Ski hills around here are now pumping out snow,” said MacWilliams. “At low temperatures with low humidity, all of them can get snow on the hill with just a day of snowmaking.” 

Often, snow will stay on the hill long enough to withstand a warm spell until it gets cold again, said MacWilliams, so hopeful skiers and snowboarders don’t need to worry about the snow disappearing anytime soon. 

A lot of hills around the state like to keep their facilities updated, and many around southeast Michigan have new offerings this year. 

In addition to incentives for new skiers, Mount Brighton has updated its terrain park. 

“It’s a really cool program they have,” said MacWilliams. “If you’re new to skiing and snowboarding, you can go in and learn and when you’re done, (you) get to take your equipment home. It’s a good opportunity to get good equipment to start out with.” 

Alpine Valley has a new fleet of snow guns to ensure that the hill has snow on it throughout the season. 

“You never know what you’re going to get,” said Kerry Weber, ski team coach at Walled Lake Northern High School, which practices at Alpine Valley. “That’s what makes ski racing such an amazing sport.”

Weber said that last year was so warm that the team was only able to practice on the ski hill three times. This year, she said, she’s hopeful. 

“You never have the same conditions, ever,” she said. “The courses change every day — there are never two courses the same. But it’s the greatest sport in the world.” 

Ten high school teams practice at Alpine Valley, including Weber’s team. Ten more practice at Mount Brighton, 10 practice at Pine Knob and six practice at Mount Holly. 

Other local ski hills have updated their offerings since last year, too. Mount Holly has new terrain on its hill, a new slope called Aurora Pass. Pine Knob, in Clarkston, opened for the third time this season on Friday, Dec. 8. 

“Now we’re trying again,” said Mary Dawson, office manager at Pine Knob. “We are absolutely looking forward to the winter.” 

Dawson said the ski hill has new snowmaking equipment and new pumps to get the water up the hills faster.

The MSIA offers free skiing for fourth- and fifth-graders across the state and has done so for nine years. 

“We wanted a statewide program that encourages kids to get outside in the wintertime,” said MacWilliams. “It’s really important for kids to be outdoors. It’s the perfect time to learn how to ski — they’re old enough to take direction and understand, but young enough to be fearless.” 

Kids wanting to try their hand at ski racing can take part in Weber’s program for kids called Peninsula Alpine Racing at Alpine Valley. 

“It’s a way for younger skiers to get involved in racing,” she said. “It’s an amazing sport. We got some really amazing U.S. Ski Team racers that are just crushing it right now, so hopefully people see that and want to get involved.” 

For adults learning how to ski, the MSIA has a program in January called Discover Michigan Skiing that offers a lesson, equipment rental and a lift ticket for $35, and students can learn from a trained professional. There are also classes on cross-country skiing for $20. 

Ski hills across the state are taking part in the program, including Mount Brighton, Mount Holly and Pine Knob. 

For more information and updates about ski hills in Michigan, visit www.goskimichigan.com.