Updated: Apr 16, 2022
The Rope Tow Report is Back
I am back! After a few weeks on the road (which we will talk about a bit later), I am finally back home, and sadly a lot has changed over the past few weeks. and as much as I hate to say this, Midwest ski areas have been dropping faster than cans of PBR around our studio.
But looking at the weather the past week, you could have never guessed April is here. Temperatures are below freezing, and even snow across parts of the upper Midwest. Mother Nature seems to be going through a bit of a mid-year crisis.
We are now down to only a handful of resorts open across the Midwest - but you still have time to get some end-of-the-season turns in - so hop over to Midwestskiers.com/resort guide before all we have is golfing… which I have no idea how anyone enjoys that sport.
Mount Bohemia > 300" This Season
One of the resorts that you will see lit up as green on our guide is Mount Bohemia, and for a good reason. A couple of weeks ago, they officially surpassed 300" of snow this season, and believe it or not - they now have more snowfall than many major resorts. First reported by Unofficial Networks, as of March 24th, Mount Bohemia had more natural snowfall than Jay Peak, Winterpark, and Vail, among several other top names.
And since our hills in the Midwest are… Let's say smaller than those out west; that powder hits a little differently here.
Spring Skiing is Here
Another thing that hits a little different is spring skiing. The past couple of weeks have been filled with amazing events and skiing across the Midwest. Honestly, I think this is the best few weeks of the season.
Warm warmer coupled with fun events is a perfect recipe. Pond skims, Retro Days, and Costume Contests, who doesn't love watching a grown man in a flamingo costume attempt a one ski pond skim!
Along with the spring skiing festivities, season passes are now for sale across the Midwest at some of the lowest prices. So if you're looking to pick one up with your local hill for next season - be sure to check in with your ski area now.
Vail Responses to Tough Season
And speaking of next season - Kirsten Lynch, Vail's CEO, announced that they would be increasing minimum wages, across all of Vail resorts, to $20.00 per hour. This is a massive increase, especially for Midwest-based Vail resorts, as their previous starting wage was just 12.50 per hour - marking a 60% increase.
This move is in response to the large amount of backlash that Vail has received this past season for reducing operations, which Vail pinned on staffing shortages. This wage increase is just one part of Vails $175 million investment in our employees. Other elements include increased investment in Human resources, Increased benefits, and affordable employee housing.
It's great to see Vail trying to right their wrongs, but this does beg the question is this too little too late, and will existing pass holders feel this is enough to re-purchase an epic pass? We will find out in a few months.
Ski Jumping Returning to Copper Peak
And while on the subject of investments, The iconic ski-flying facility in the UP, Copper Peak, announced that they would be receiving 20 million dollars from the state to bring it back up to FIS standards. The 20 million dollars is part of a $4.8 billion infrastructure spending plan that the Michigan House and Senate recently passed.
The last ski jumping event held at Copper Peak was back in 1994, and the venue will have to go through several updates to fit today's equipment, style, and standards. State lawmakers expect Copper Peak to bring in $50 million of visitor revenue in its first four years of events, justifying that investment. The renovation is expected to wrap up in the Summer of 2024, with competition starting in the winter of 2025.
MI DNR Taking Over Operations at The Porkies
In other UP news, unfortunately, the Michigan DNR will be taking over the operation of the Porkies starting this upcoming season. or those unaware, the porcupine mountains is a ski area located in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park that has been operated by the Ski Area Management program at Gogebic Community College since 2012.
The Michigan DNR is planning on taking over the operation of the ski area. Although I am disappointed about this news, as I thought GCC was an excellent fit for the operations side of this hill - I wish the DNR and the porkies the best as they work through the transition.
Kent Count Eyes Cannonsburg
Another Michigan Ski resort under the spotlight is Cannonsburg in Belmont, MI. A couple of weeks ago, Mlive.com posted an article that stated that Kent County is interested in possibly purchasing the ski area. This article was published after the County Board of Commissioners approved submitting a $7.5 million grant request, suggesting the DNR could use those funds for the acquisition.
Later that day, Cannonsburg stated on social media, "While there might be interest by the county, there is no agreement to purchase. Additionally, if any land is ever sold to the parks (or anyone else), the ski area will always be protected. We love it as much as you."
Wild Rebuilds After Fire
It has been a year since Wild Mountain's tragic fire that took their entire shop, tools, and equipment with it. But happily, the progress on their brand new shop has been going well, and it looks fantastic. The new shop will include a 40-kilowatt solar array, Findoors, and heated floors.
Off-Season Improvements Have Begun
And speaking of improvements, several off-season improvements have already kicked off, including installing some of the new chairlifts that we will be seeing for next season. Powder Ridge began the process of dismantling their Powderpuff chair, and Caberfae received and began moving their towers for their brand new triple. Bittersweet started receiving parts for their new high-speed quad that will be labeled "Snow Flyer."
If you want a quick recap on the seven new chairlifts going in this Summer across the Midwest, check out our video by clicking here. We will always keep you up-to-date with the installation progress throughout the Summer.
A Midwest Ski Movie by TGR
And for those of you wondering where I have been over the past few weeks, the answer is… a lot of places. Some of you may have caught from our social media pages that Teton Gravity Research hired me as a Field Producer for their upcoming short film "In Pursuit of Soul 2."
I spent over two weeks traveling around with a crew of three other super talented individuals to 8 different Midwest resorts. So, yes, the Midwest will be getting its own film.
If you haven't seen the first film, go check it out here, but it follows 12 independent ski areas and talks about their importance in the industry and what makes them tick. My only critique of the first film was that not a single Midwest resort was featured, but that changes this year!
It will be a fantastic film that highlights our hills and what makes Midwest ski culture so different and unique. I don't want to spoil anything for you guys, but the stories and characters in this film will be something remarkable.
The film will be released this fall, and we are working on possibly doing some premieres. We'll keep everyone up-to-day on the progress as we move along, so be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel if you haven't already!
Straight A's = Free Skiing?
And I want to wrap up with an awesome letter and program coming from Whitecap Mountains. Last week Whitecap posted this letter they received from Alexandrea, who got to ski for three days because of the A-Pass program.
And if you're wondering what the A-Pass Program is, it is a ski-free program that gives children K-12 a free season pass if they get straight A's. What a fantastic program, Whitecap, and keep up those grades, Alexandrea.
But there you have it, your fix of Midwest ski news from the past few weeks. If you want to check out our last episode, click here. But until next time, I hope all of you have a great week, pray for snow, and I'll see you guys out there!