Winter sports enthusiasts may be disappointed with early-season conditions, but skiers and snowboarders at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point are still planning to enjoy the downhill activities all season long.
Luke Koch, junior communication major, said he normally skis a few times per year at Wisconsin hills such as Tyrol Basin in Mt. Horeb and Cascade Mountain in Portage. He tried both skiing and snowboarding while growing up but now prefers skiing. Snowboarding many times left him with a bruised tailbone, he said.
“I enjoy both,” Koch said. “Skiing is more like ice skating for me, which is more comfortable.”
Koch has plans to ski in New York with his girlfriend over winter break and hopes to ski at Granite Peak in Wausau this year but said he is worried about the lack of natural snow.
“I got to imagine that it’s getting pretty icy out there,” Koch said. “That definitely puts a stall on things. People are happier when there’s fresh powder.”
A couple big snowstorms would help motivate him to do more local skiing, he said.
Ethan Heineke, sophomore forestry major, is an officer of the UWSP ski and snowboard club and has been skiing since he could walk. He said he loves all aspects of the activity but focuses his time working on jumps, rails and tricks in the terrain park at Granite Peak. The delayed season is frustrating, he said, but hopes January and February are warmer with more snow.
The club helps enable students to partake in downhill winter sports and coordinate trips of varying lengths, usually to western resorts. No western trips are planned yet for this year, he said, although officers are planning to make more trips to Granite Peak and working out a better carpooling system to share rides.
“In the past we have focused mostly on a big winter trip and little else,” Heineke said. “We want kids to be able to get to granite with some friends and just have fun.”
Although a large winter break trip is out of the picture, several ideas are being explored like trips to the Upper Peninsula. Heineke is also considering hosting meetings where members can have their skis and snowboard waxed and serviced by experienced personnel.
Granite Peak opened on Nov. 30 this year, which is later than normal said Kelsey Beasland, administrative assistant of the ski area. Last year Granite Peak had one of its earliest opening days ever with the first chairlift opening on Nov. 15.
Despite poor snowmaking weather, patrons enjoyed two runs during opening weekend before the area closed to make more snow during the week. Staff members are getting positive feedback, she said, and the snowmaking crews are continuing to make snow when weather allows.
“We’re making snow every chance we can get,” Beasland said. “Everyone has just been really excited to finally get out skiing.”
Above average temperatures have effected ticket sales, but Beasland said it is normal for the area to be less busy in the early part of the season, with business picking up as people start making trips to the hill around the holidays. Locals and season pass holders who live closer to the slopes like to get some skiing in during the first weeks of December, she said.
Although most of the snow is currently man-made, the early season is a good opportunity to enjoy discounted lift ticket prices. Granite Peak is offering $10 off it’s early season rates and two-for-one tickets for college students with a valid student I.D. Student pricing is honored weekdays from Dec. 14 to 23 and again Jan. 4 to 29.
For newcomers looking to try skiing or snowboarding, Beasland suggests Monday or Wednesday from 4 p.m. to close. Granite Peak offers free ski rentals and $10 snowboard rentals during that time, she said.
Beasland said the area is a popular destination for college students who usually arrange carpools from places like Stevens Point. Live music on Saturday nights helps make for a fun experience and only a short drive, she said.
“It’s Wisconsin’s largest ski area. It’s nice having that right in your backyard,” she said. “It’s just a great atmosphere.”