It’s time to venture into the Northern Michigan outdoors and conquer the slopes. Welcome, ski season. Whether you’re a first-time skier or a pro, here’s what you need to know about the 2015-16 season of Northern Michigan skiing at Shanty Creek Resorts in Bellaire.
The conversation below is part of a series of MyNorth interviews with Northern Michigan ski resort managers about the 2015-16 downhill season.
With downhill ski and snowboard season at Northern Michigan resorts about to launch, we check in with Shanty Creek’s Peter Bigford, chief operating officer and general manager, to hear what he’s excited about at the Bellaire, Michigan, resort this winter.
What are you really looking forward to this winter?
To be honest, I’m looking forward to a year of normal winter weather! Last year we had 50 inches of snow by December 7, then it all melted and the whole rest of the winter we only had 50 more inches of snow and bitter cold temps. It was a really tough winter.
I’m guessing that puts a lot of emphasis on the snow making crew.
Yes. And we continue to upgrade our snowmaking system. We’ve made some upgrades and we’ll see some especially nice upgrades over the next couple of years.
We hear a lot about the industry focusing on families, making the downhill experience a positive one right from the beginning. Anything to talk about in that realm?
Sure. We have a new warming center at the beginner area, so the little ones can warm up a little right there if they need to. And we’ve added a new shuttle bus to the beginner area. It is open air and has a low entry elevation. You can, of course, ski to the beginner area, but this shuttle makes it really easy to get there. It’s for the “never ever skied” skier. And we painted it like a zebra. You know, it sounds like a little thing, but it will go a long way in making that a fun, positive experience.
With Shanty Creek hosting the White Pine Stampede XC race every year, you have established your resort as one of the premier cross-country resorts in the state. Is there anything to report on the XC side of things?
We purchased new equipment to groom the cross-country trails in low-snow conditions. We already have a really good snow cat for regular conditions, but it’s big and heavy and it can need a certain amount of snow. This new system is pulled by a snowmobile and when there’s not much snow, it can go out and get things working for us on the trail.
How’s about on the events side? Your resort is known for hosting the Special Olympics, what else is glowing bright on the radar this season?
Yes, we will continue to host the Special Olympics, and that event is still a really important one for us. Another one that has joined us more recently is the Ski for Light event. It’s 200 mostly blind or visually impaired cross-country skiers. They have clinics, races, fun activities. It’s an amazing week and the whole staff just rallies around the event. The attendees come from all over the country and even the world.
Beyond that, I’m a big fan of ski racing and we will be hosting the Division 1 and Division 2 regionals this year and also the Division 2 state finals.
What about indoors?
This is only the second year with our new River Bistro, so even though that’s not new this year, for a lot of people, it will be their first experience being exposed to that. Also at Ivan’s Cafe, we moved the stage so it is directly in front of the bar now, which creates a more festive atmosphere and more seating.
Tell us something we don’t know about snow-making.
Ok. At the Schuss Mountain site, it takes 250 acre-feet of snow to cover that ski area the way we want to. And it takes 200,000 gallons of water to make 1 acre foot of snow. We know how many acres each one of our slopes covers, so we can predict how much time it will take to open any particular slope. There’s a science to it!
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