Well, North America's ski season started yesterday, and for many, it was a surprise, but I had it pinned all along. Not only did the Midwest have North America's first ski area open, but they also had their second - but not without some last-minute drama.
During my Race to Open live stream, I mentioned I thought both would open on Tuesday, October 18th, and it would become a matter of who will open at what time. I knew that Andes Tower Hills would likely announce first, which they did on Monday afternoon with an opening time of 1:00 PM. This announcement left an opportunity for Wild Mountain to sneak in, but it wouldn't be that easy.
Monday Night - Tuesday Morning Snowmaking
Monday night, I decided to check in on both Trollhaugen and Wild Mountains snowmaking crew, and despite their best efforts, things were not ideal. High winds on Sunday night meant that both areas barely made snow during that stretch, and although Monday night was a significant improvement, there was still a lot of ground to make up for the lost time.
Given that Trollhaugen typically goes for top-to-bottom coverage, I figured this was a race between Andes Tower Hills and Wild Mountain. I arrived at Trollhaugen at about 1:00 AM, and they had Tomte and Nisse completely rocking and rolling; still, it became clear they needed at least another night to get enough coverage. Which then made me wonder how Wild Mountain was looking, given its proximity to Trollhaugen.
Well, I drove over to Wild Mountain and arrived there at about 4:00 PM after finishing up with the Trolls, and I have to say my initial reaction when I got there was, "I don't think they are going to be able to open today." And it wasn't the fault of the snowmaking crew; the wind just seemed to be blowing snow everywhere except on Front Stage.
In the middle of Front Stage, they had a few inches of wet snow, and I knew they would need to step up production to beat Andes Tower Hill's 1:00 PM opening time. I rolled out of Wild Mountain around 6:00 AM, and although conditions were improving, I still wondered if they would be able to pull off the last-minute steal.
The Sneak by Wild
I got back around 7:15 AM, pretty dang exhausted, so I set the alarm for 10:30 AM to get some rest and wondered what would happen in this tense Race to Open. Then I woke up and knew something had happened because I had about ten text messages from those around the industry, and without even reading them, I knew it - Wild had pulled off the steal. At ten in the morning, Wild Announced they would be opening at noon - just one hour before Andes Tower Hills.
Initially, I had mixed emotions about this news. Although I was super impressed they were able to pull it off, man, did I feel bad for Andes and Tom Anderson - who got snaked in a way eerily similar to when Keystone got best by Abasin back in 2019. But then I remembered we were skiing today, and how amazing it was that the Midwest had not one but two ski hills open when no one else in North America did, and what a day it was.
A Perfect Opening Day
You couldn't have asked for a more perfect day, full sun but cold enough for the snow to stay fast, and I have to say, skiing surrounded by fall colors is something exceptional. As with most opening days, was it the best conditions, and was the skiing good... well not really, but it was one of the most memorable days of skiing I have had in my career.
And before you ask, yes, my bracket was busted - but you know what? The past few days have been nothing but pure fun - from the speculation to getting to ride with friends I haven't seen in several months... it was the perfect start to what I think will be a great season!
So what's or who's next... well, it might be closer than you think!
But until next time, I hope all of you have a great week, Pray for snow, and I'll see you out there!