New at Northern Michigan Ski Resorts + COVID-19 Safety

The last nine months have been busy at Northern Michigan ski resorts, as teams reevaluate every aspect of their business, from equipment rentals to dining, in preparation to operate their Northern Michigan resorts safely and responsibly during COVID-19. We caught up with general managers and directors at several area resorts—Nub’s Nob Ski Area, Boyne Mountain, Caberfae Peaks, Crystal Mountain, Shanty Creek, The Homestead and Mt. Holiday—to find out what’s new and how they’re feeling about the quickly approaching ski season. We found an overwhelmingly optimistic outlook, several silver linings and innovative solutions that will benefit skiers and staff for winters to come.

Nub’s Nob Ski Area // Harbor Springs

Ben Doornbos, General Manager

How are you feeling about the 2020/2021 season in 3 words?

Ready to ski.

Is there anything new this season you’re excited about? (Equipment, dining options, instructors, etc.)

Lots of things to be excited about this winter. The first thing is the expanded Winter Garden deck with a fire pit and outdoor food venue. Other highlights include a slope-side pick-up window, expanded terrain on Valley and many updates to our website for contactless payment and a streamlined experience at Nub’s.

Have Northern Michigan ski resorts been working together to make this season a success, or even with resorts nationwide?

Yes! One of the best things to come out of this difficult time is a renewed kinship amongst ski area operators in the state. Michigan is fortunate to have a strong trade organization called the Michigan Snowsports Industry Association or MSIA. Through the MSIA, Michigan ski area operators and owners have been meeting once a week via Zoom calls since the spring. Our goal is that the ski experience in Michigan is similar from one resort to the next this winter. We recognize that it is in the skiers’ best interest to have similar protocols from one ski area to the next.

We are also lucky to have strong national leadership for ski areas with the National Ski Areas Association or NSAA. This group has put out a fantastic document entitled “Ski Well Be Well” that outlines responsible operations for ski areas amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The NSAA has also released signage for use that skiers and riders will see no matter what ski area they visit this season in North America.

Are there some best practices identified in the “Ski Well, Be Well” document that you’ll be following/asking visitors to follow? 

The “Ski Well Be Well” document is full of best practices for ski areas. The primary recommendation to slow the spread of coronavirus is the use of face masks. Ski areas across North America will be requiring mask use indoors, in lift lines and while riding the chairlift. There are many other best practices in this document, but I think it’s important to reinforce the primary way to staff on the slopes this winter is through the use of face masks. This should not be a burden for the skier or rider who typically already has a neck gaiter on.

Skiing/snowboarding is outdoors and can be socially distanced. It’s the après-ski activities at cafes and bars that could pose a problem. How are you addressing that?

Great question! Indoors we are opening every square inch of our Main Lodge and our Pintail Peak Lodge every day of the week and spacing tables and chairs out. We have removed our comfortable lounge chairs to maximize dining capacity with proper spacing between tables. However, on busy days I think we will reach capacity limits and it’s very possible that we will not be able to let everyone inside who wishes to come in during these busy periods.

Editor’s Note: On Sunday, November 15, restaurants in Michigan were temporarily closed for indoor dining for three weeks due to COVID-19. Outdoor dining, takeout and delivery are still available. These interviews, conducted before the restrictions were announced, do not reflect the latest rules. 

Outdoors we have nearly tripled the size of our Winter Garden adding picnic tables, a fire pit and an outdoor food and drink venue called the Winter Garden Cafe. In addition, we added a slope-side pick-up window off of the Pub. This window is for online food orders, so this season you can order curly fries and chili from the chairlift and pick it up outdoors on the bar deck.

Do you think you’ll see an increase in visitors this season or a decrease? Too soon to tell?

I believe we will see an increase in skiers this season. Our season pass sales are up and we know that this pandemic has ushered in a surge of interest in outdoor recreation. In the winter, outdoor recreation in Northern Michigan looks like snowmobiling, ice fishing, snowshoeing and skiing.

Has there been a silver lining, cool idea, lesson—something positive that can be taken from this incredibly difficult time? 

There are many silver linings for us operators and for the Michigan skier during this time. In many ways, the pandemic forced us to hit the accelerator on innovation at Nub’s Nob. This year, skiers and riders will be able to purchase most of our products online, they will have a better experience in the rental building, they will have more outdoor options for eating and drinking and most importantly we will all remember that this sport is really about one thing—getting outside and enjoying the snow with friends and family. These moments of crisis bring a sharp focus; my sincere prayer is that this winter’s focus is on what we have gained and not on what we have lost.

Is there anything else you want to share with our readers?

We can’t wait to see you on the slopes! We are training our staff on all the new regulations and we are confident that Nub’s Nob will run with professionalism and kindness despite the changes. We ask that you make this winter about one thing—enjoying the simple act of skiing and riding outdoors. If we all adjust our expectations, this could be a very special season that we will remember with fondness. If we can’t adjust our expectations, we are bound to be disappointed.

Let’s make it a great ski season at Nub’s Nob!

Boyne Mountain // Boyne Falls

Ed Grice, President and General Manager & Erin Ernst, Director of Communications

How are you feeling about the 2020/2021 season in 3 words?

As always, optimistic!

Is there anything new this season you’re excited about? (Equipment, dining options, instructors, etc.)

Guests lodging at the resort now have the option to take advantage of a paperless check-in adding efficiency and reducing wait times. Boyne Mountain is also offering curbside check-in by calling 231.549.7902 at least an hour prior to arrival and a front desk team member will meet the guest in their car to facilitate the check-in process. New contactless, mobile payment options for added convenience and safety are now available, including Apple Pay and Google Pay. Bellman service, valet parking and shuttle service remain available this winter. At the end of a guest’s stay, a new option for Express Checkout has been rolled out providing a copy of the guest bill directly to their email box eliminating the need to stop by the front desk.

On the slopes, Boyne Mountain has added 21 top-of-the-line, energy-efficient and high-production HKD snowguns to its fleet of snowmakers. With their extreme efficiency, the snowguns use less air allowing the resort to run more snowguns concurrently, especially helpful in heavy snow use areas like tubing and terrain parks. The resort has also added lighting to several areas for improved sight conditions during night skiing and riding; added tower guns to Meadows and McLouth, and improved the routing on the beginner trail, Easy Does-It at the top of Meadows.

And finally, after a hiatus this spring as construction was halted due to the state shutdown, hammers are once again swinging at the Edelweiss Lodge. This iconic hotel, a true ski-in/ski-out lodge with 36-rooms at the center of it all, is undergoing a complete top-to-bottom renovation. The transformation will create a refined mountain lodge with soft, natural elements and textures establishing a sense of modern luxury. The lodge is expected to reopen fall 2021.

I’ve heard of a “Ski Well, Be Well” document put together by the National Ski Areas Association that was endorsed by the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association. Are there some best practices identified in the document that you’ll be following/asking visitors to follow? Or are there other safety precautions/procedures guests should be aware of?

(Here’s a link to that document in case you want to read it: nsaa.org/Webdocs/Resources/Coronavirus/Playbook/SkiWellBeWell_2020.pdf.)

Boyne Resorts also endorses the efforts outlined. The sports of skiing and snowboarding inherently follow many safety protocols such as the social distancing in lift lines (length of equipment already separates people), the use of face coverings, etc. We also have protocols in place for managing flow and the volume of traffic; face covers are required at all times in public spaces including the base area, lift lines, on chairlifts and indoors, except when seated at a table in a restaurant; guests will be asked to self-group and load the chair with their traveling party, and we have rolled out many contactless services.

Skiing/snowboarding is outdoors and can be socially distanced. It’s the après-ski activities at cafes and bars that could pose a problem. How are you addressing that?

This winter, Boyne Mountain is launching online food ordering via the Boyne Mountain App and resort website for takeout at several establishments. Guests can also coordinate advanced provisions purchases and have their suite, condo or cabin stocked with groceries upon their arrival or delivered to their door during their stay.

Five, new dining igloos will grace the property providing seating for groups up to 10 people. The igloos will be located in the Biergarten behind Forty Acres Tavern, and offer service of the restaurant’s full menu, plus beverages. Guests to the resort can also enjoy to-go light bites, beer and a limited bar selection at two additional Alpen Hut locations this winter, including at the base of Meadows near the Top Notch Tube Park and in the Biergarten.

Do you think you’ll see an increase in visitors this season or a decrease? Too soon to tell?

This is really tough to predict. Winter sports provide a low-risk recreational opportunity and a respite from the stressors of the world. It’s a chance to enjoy physical activity, and to safely spend time with loved ones. With 415 skiable acres and large base areas, we feel confident that we can spread out and welcome all who choose to come play outside with us!

Has there been a silver lining, cool idea, lesson—something positive that can be taken from this incredibly difficult time?

It’s been a valuable process for us to stop and take a look at how we operate and ask ourselves how can we do it better, and how can we do it differently. From those discussions, many new aspects have been rolled out, including the curbside check-in, and coming for this winter, the dining igloos.

Is there anything else you want to share with our readers?

Winter is coming, and we are excited for it! The outdoors is open and we look forward to welcoming all our guests this season!

Caberfae Peaks // Cadillac

Pete Meyer, General Manager of Business Operations

How are you feeling about the 2020/2021 season in 3 words?

Optimistic. Encouraged. Excited.

Is there anything new this season you’re excited about? (Equipment, dining options, instructors, etc.)

We have made several off-season improvements to our resort. We added a 1,500-square-foot deck off of R Dub’s Pub to offer an open-air dining option. The deck is slope-side and will offer food and beverages, with a fire pit and outdoor heaters. We increased our snowmaking capacity by 33% by adding another snowmaking pump and source well and purchased all new kids’ rental skis, totaling over 275 pairs of skis. We also added paver walkways throughout the resort.

I’ve heard of a “Ski Well, Be Well” document put together by the National Ski Areas Association that was endorsed by the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association. Are there some best practices identified in the document that you’ll be following/asking visitors to follow? Or are there other safety precautions/procedures guests should be aware of?

Definitely. All resorts in Michigan are on board. Some are resort specific as we all differ from one another. In our case, we have a COVID-19 policies and procedures page on our website that has been regularly updated, so our guests know what to expect when they come out to ski or snowboard.

Skiing/snowboarding is outdoors and can be socially distanced. It’s the après-ski activities at cafes and bars that could pose a problem. How are you addressing that?

We will be following the current local and state laws with our dining operations.

Do you think you’ll see an increase in visitors this season or a decrease? Too soon to tell?

Overall our visits will decrease this year as we plan to limit ski area volume. Those that do come out to ski and snowboard, will have a great experience on the slopes.

Has there been a silver lining, cool idea, lesson—something positive that can be taken from this incredibly difficult time?

Yes, it has made us reprioritize. For example, the deck was always on the list. However, prior to COVID, it was low on the priority list. COVID moved it to the top of the list.

Is there anything else you want to share with our readers?

I’ve never been so excited for a winter. People need outdoor recreation for their mental and physical health during this extremely difficult time. The ski industry will serve an important role this winter as we continue to navigate through these unprecedented times. The pandemic has affected everyone in different ways. The slopes will be a healthy way to get out in the fresh, crisp winter air and recreate, and feel a sense of normalcy.

Crystal Mountain // Thompsonville

Sammie Lukaskiewicz, Director of Public Relations

 Last season was cut short due to COVID-19. What have the past 9 months been like?

 We’ve really been flexible with all that we have been doing because we’re all navigating new waters. We implemented a Crystal Clean task force in March comprised of employees from across the resort who meet with industry peers, experts and state and local health officials to compile, craft and implement best practice safety protocols for the entire resort. We safely hosted guests from all over Michigan and parts of the Midwest throughout the summer, so, in many ways, we have been working toward reopening for winter when we closed back in March.

How are you feeling about the 2020/2021 season in 3 words?

Outside never closes.

Is there anything new this season you’re excited about? (Equipment, dining options, instructors, etc.)

We’ve got a lot of things we’re excited about. We continue to invest in the facility by adding RFID gates to our chairlifts, which will get guests on the slopes quicker and more efficiently. It also allows touchless, cashier-less lift transactions to keep staff and guests safe. We also have installed a new, wider snowmaking pipe that will move more water to our snow guns, helping us create better snow faster. (Here’s our winter operations run down.)

Fresh air will be important this winter. So the resort has engineered several clean air solutions inside its public buildings including improving filtering in its air handling units; installing portable, HEPA air purifiers in some areas; opening ventilation dampers to bring in about 20% fresh air; as well as installing air scrubbers that are a spinoff of NASA technology.

How do air scrubbers work? When air passes through a UV light-activated titanium dioxide membrane filter, it causes water vapor in the air to turn into negatively charged hydrogen peroxide ions which can then be directed into room air supply ducts. Because of their electric charge, these ions attach to and can destroy most common bacteria and virus particles in the air and on surfaces. Hydrogen peroxide is generally recognized as a safe antimicrobial agent by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Each room also typically has four to six air changes in an hour, which helps to keep the air clean.

Have Northern Michigan ski resorts been working together to make this season a success, or even with resorts nationwide?  

Both. Our team has been working with other ski resorts from across the country and right here in Michigan, as well as industry and health agencies the National Ski Areas Association, Michigan Snowsports Industries Association and Benzie-Leelanau Health Department on best practices to safely open for winter. NSAA is a national industry and has convened many of us to ensure best safety practices are deployed across the country so all ski areas will have similar policies in place for winter.

Skiing/snowboarding is outdoors and can be socially distanced. It’s the après-ski activities at cafes and bars that could pose a problem. How are you addressing that?

As we approach ski season amid a pandemic, some things at Crystal Mountain, like everywhere else, will look a little different. So we’ve had to reimagine a few things. Social distancing on a wide-open mountain is certainly doable, but the prospect of kicking back in a crowded ski lodge with a drink and big group of friends is just not possible. Aprés ski during COVID-19 will be subdued and likely very limited. We have reduced capacity in our restaurants and our Vista Lounge, which is our main bar for post-ski cocktails. And have moved the indoors outside where fresh air is abundant. Guests will need to social distance and wear masks when they can’t be six feet apart from others—and will need to take their post-ski activities back to their accommodations or reserve a table at Vista Lounge way in advance.

We have basically moved a lot of our operations outside—seating, dining. And are opening up our Crystal Center for additional seating.

Has there been a silver lining, cool idea, lesson—something positive that can be taken from this incredibly difficult time? 

There has been a new and renewed interest in outdoor recreation. So we have been incredibly lucky that summer brought us a tremendous amount of guests who were interested in hiking, biking, running and golfing outdoors. And we expect that wave to continue into winter.

Secondly, incredible ideas, imagination and innovation come out of troubling times. We have had an incredible opportunity to reimagine the way we do business, which is rare, and that has made us stronger as a team.

The new RFID gates, which create touchless, cashier-less sales opportunities, will allow us to collect real-time data so we can better manage flow of our guests on the lifts, helping us become more efficient with how we operate. The addition of the air scrubbers, the barriers at our registers and between tables at our restaurants—that we built!—and other engineered solutions have shown us how incredibly talented our team is.

We’ve also built some strong relationships with our peers across the industry, but also with our health officials at the Benzie-Leelanau Health Department. We could not do this without their advice, their guidance and their steadfast commitment to safety.

Is there anything else you want to share with our readers?

We have 1,500 acres of wide-open space for alpine and Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, fat tire biking, hiking and ice skating … We have a lot of fresh air and room to breathe. Outdoor recreation has numerous benefits for physical and mental health and wellness. It’s a community of skiers and riders who look out for each other, and we couldn’t be more excited to safely and smartly get back to winter.

Shanty Creek Resort // Bellaire

Chris Hale, Vice President of Sales + Marketing

How are you feeling about the 2020/2021 season in 3 words?

Prepared for success.

Is there anything new this season you’re excited about? (Equipment, dining options, instructors, etc.)

On-slope dining will have occupancy limitations. (And anyone who’s ever skied at a Midwest resort knows it’s typically over-crowded when 3,000 skiers all try to eat at the same time with only 300 tables!) However, we will solve this with several new outdoor and on-the-go dining options:

  • There will be a new “order here/pickup here” carry-out window on the slope side of Ivan’s along with a heated tent for outdoor grab-and-go eats and treats.
  • There will be a new food truck near the Yellow Lift for another on-hill quick option.
  • For guests who prefer BYO picnic-style dining, our Day Lodge at Schuss will be open for brown baggers. And we’ve re-allocated a pole barn near the base of the Yellow Lift for additional BYO or Food Truck dining outside of the weather/elements.
  • We are adding additional fire pits at outdoor seating areas.
  • There will be online ordering for curbside pickup for The River Bistro (on the Purple/Red lift north face of Schuss Mtn).
  • For guests enjoying our Alpine Tubing Park at Summit, there will be online ordering for easy carryout at The Lakeview.
  • Guests in Summit Village can also get caffeine and goodies from our new CoffeeBAR, which features all Starbucks products and menu options.

To minimize time spent indoors and reduce long lines, rental equipment and ski school classes should be reserved in advance online at shantycreek.com. For lodging guests, we can deliver equipment to those lodging in our two hotels (The Lakeview at Summit Village and The Lodge at Cedar River).

We expect a lot of enthusiasm for other winter recreation including our Alpine Tubing Park and Nordic Trails. Our plans for 2020/21 winter season include all-new Nordic skis/boots from Rossignol—doubling our inventory for classic and skate skiing. We’ve also doubled our snowshoe rental inventory. This season we will add another All-Access multipurpose trail specifically for snowshoeing and fat tire biking, and our alpine tubing park will remain another safe outdoor option for guests/families. Social distancing occurs naturally on the magic carpet.

Have Northern Michigan ski resorts been working together to make this season a success, or even with resorts nationwide?

Absolutely. Our Director of Ski and Snowsports Steve Kershner has served as president of Michigan Snowsports Industry Association (MSIA) for the past 13 years. Together with Mickey McWilliams, MSIA’s executive director, the members of MSIA have been meeting regularly since mid-summer to share ideas to minimize traffic and congestion in interior spaces (e.g. ski school, rental equipment, dining, etc.). Fortunately, once outside, skiing and snowboarding are naturally socially distanced activities.

Many of the MSIA folks, including Mr. Kershner, also continue to participate in MSAA and NSAA meetings (Midwest Ski Areas and National Ski Area Associations), again sharing best practices and ideas to keep guests and staff safe while providing a fun, exciting environment for outdoor recreation.

Skiing/snowboarding is outdoors and can be socially distanced. It’s the après-ski activities at cafes and bars that could pose a problem. How are you addressing that?

Sadly, the absence of après-ski entertainment will likely be the biggest loss for the ski experience. Over the years, we’ve established a strong regional lineup of bands at Ivan’s where nightlife comes alive.

On a related note, our guests recognize the huge value of our complimentary shuttles, which run in/out of downtown Bellaire where the après-ski entertainment at Short’s Brewpub, Bee Well and Hello Vino have also had live entertainment.

Has there been a silver lining, cool idea, lesson—something positive that can be taken from this incredibly difficult time? 

Yes, and we found that premise works both ways: We realized that in years past we spent a lot of time, energy and resources on events and activities that when removed prove they probably never had much, if any, impact. And yet year after year we spent time and expenses. From that perspective, we can be more efficient, more accountable and more aware of our time and resources.

Is there anything else you want to share with our readers?

There’s no question skiing is a special way for friends and families to come together. For over 50 years, Schuss Mountain at Shanty Creek has enjoyed its reputation within the Midwest ski culture as a family-friendly setting with great snow conditions and desirable ski terrain.

With many working from home or going to school online these days, this winter we anticipate strong interest in midweek skiing (smaller crowds, shorter lift lines). And with our low midweek lodging and lift ticket rates plus complimentary broadband WIFI, the midweek getaway can be a very good value. Another great value is our Midweek Season Pass—only $129.

Variety is also a key component of the Shanty Creek winter wonderland experience. Beyond downhill skiing and snowboarding, we anticipate many more guests in our Alpine Tubing Park and on our Nordic trails. We’ve doubled our inventory of cross country ski packages and snowshoes. And we will be adding another groomed multipurpose trail; these are designed to keep fat tire bikes and snowshoes away from our other dedicated Nordic ski trails.

The Homestead // Glen Arbor

Tony Farragh, Senior Manager & Director of Sales

How are you feeling about the 2020/2021 season in 3 words?

Cautiously optimistic & excited.

Is there anything new this season you’re excited about? (Equipment, dining options, instructors, room updates, etc.)

Our entire team is excited about new snowmaking equipment, and my favorite is a custom panoramic trail map being painted of the ski area surrounded by the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Skiing/snowboarding is outdoors and can be socially distanced. It’s the après-ski activities at cafes and bars that could pose a problem. How are you addressing that?

Whisker’s Bar and Grill will be our hub for outdoor dining with an outdoor covered bar, food pickup window and three fire pits.

Has there been a silver lining, cool idea, lesson—something positive that can be taken from this incredibly difficult time?

A huge positive I see is how our team continues to fight through the obstacles and stick together.

Is there anything else you want to share with our readers?

The Homestead skiing experience is in a category of its own. A day on the slopes is a day at peace. The natural surroundings and views of Lake Michigan allow you to remember what is truly important in life. Slow down, relax and live in the moment.

Mt. Holiday // Traverse City

Nate Noyes, Executive Director

Last season was cut short due to COVID. What have the past several months been like?

The last seven months have been difficult due to the uncertainty of what lies ahead. We had an abrupt end to the ski season, but thankfully we were already in March so the impact to our seasonal revenue and guest experience was minimal. Financially speaking, the hardship came when we were unable to operate our restaurant or zip line and most of all, host our annual Mud, Sweat & Beers mountain bike race (which is our most profitable fundraiser of the year).

How are you feeling about the 2020/2021 season in 3 words?

Excited, thankful, concerned

Is there anything new this season you’re excited about? (Equipment, dining options, instructors, etc.)

We’ve got quite a bit to be excited about at Mt. Holiday. First and foremost is the incredible vibe of this community! I’ve never experienced such a positive feel for those who call Mt. Holiday their winter home. Kids, parents, neighbors, local businesses, sponsors and supporters have all come together to keep this 70-year-old gem alive and thriving. As far as improvements go, we’ve been very resourceful with the limited funds and resources available. We’ve added a new back patio to our lodge (thanks to a grant from the Biederman Foundation) that doubles our outside seating capacity and we have simplified our interior décor to capture the rustic charm of a traditional Northern Michigan lodge. Through in-kind donations from Modal LLC, we’ve expanded our parking lot and increased our tubing hill capacity by finishing up the installation of a second tubing lift.

Have Northern Michigan ski resorts been working together to make this season a success, or even with resorts nationwide?

The larger ski areas in Northern Michigan have always been great “big brothers” to Mt. Holiday and this year has been no different. Crystal Mountain donated some terrain park features, Nubs Nob donated an auxiliary lift motor for our Yellow Lift, Shanty Creek gave us nozzles for our snow guns and Boyne Resorts offered snowmaking support for the coming season. Mt. Holiday is a “feeder” hill to these large resorts and their generous assistance is greatly appreciated!

Skiing/snowboarding is outdoors and can be socially distanced. It’s the après-ski activities at cafes and bars that could pose a problem. How are you addressing that?

The food and beverage industry has been hammered by this pandemic and Mt. Holiday’s T-Bar Lounge is constantly adapting to stay compliant as well as profitable. Our busy season lies ahead and like everyone else, we will be operating at half our normal seating capacity. To keep things simple, we now only provide the exact amount of seats for that half capacity criteria. When those seats are full, we will politely ask our guests to wait outside until there is seating available. Warming up throughout the day with a drink is as much a part of skiing as putting on your skis. The new patio previously mentioned will be great for getting folks outside and away from one another. BATA (Bay Area Transit Authority) recently loaned us a dozen beautiful Adirondack chairs for the winter that will be dispersed around our property to create cozy places for families to relax and enjoy the day.

Editor’s Note: On Sunday, November 15, restaurants in Michigan were temporarily closed for indoor dining for three weeks due to COVID-19. Outdoor dining, takeout and delivery are still available. These interviews, conducted before the restrictions were announced, do not reflect the latest rules. 

Has there been a silver lining, cool idea, lesson—something positive that can be taken from this incredibly difficult time?

Necessity is the mother of all inventions and we’ve used this pandemic as an opportunity to rethink our procedures to be more efficient. Online ski tickets and tubing reservations will significantly reduce inside congestion and will improve the guest experience. Food that can be quickly purchased and consumed outside will also be a permanent change.

Is there anything else you want to share with our readers?

Mt. Holiday is proud to be one of the last nonprofit ski hills in the entire United States! We are driven by principles, not stockholders. We measure success by the programs we deliver, not by the revenue we generate. We are dedicated to the kids, not the cash. Recently, I’ve been receiving calls from folks asking if Mt. Holiday will be able to open this coming winter. The questions are justified for obvious reasons—2020 has been an exceptionally difficult year for everyone, especially fragile small businesses and nonprofits. The answer is simple—YES, Mt. Holiday will open!

For the last six years, Mt. Holiday has worked hard toward the goal of being self-sustaining from an operational standpoint. For the most part, with budgeting, management controls and having large events, like Mud Sweat, and Beers, and Dinner in the Hills, Mt. Holiday has been able to pay the bills, repair old equipment and keep the place running at a price affordable to families of all financial means. However, Holiday’s operations cannot support upgrading the aging infrastructure. It has only been through fundraising efforts that Holiday has been able to get a new groomer, install Tucker’s Tow, upgrade the tubing run and build a mile-long zip line course.

The Board of Mt. Holiday has been working through a list of immediate needs and long term goals to address the aging infrastructure while also trying to generate more revenue for the hill. Last year, Mt. Holiday was finally in a position where it could start looking toward the long term goals of snowmaking infrastructure, lifts and lodge upgrades. The Board started with improving the snow making infrastructure as the most immediate need.

Then Covid hit.

The biggest cost Holiday will have this year is opening the hill. This is mainly due to outdoor operations costs, specifically the labor and resources associated with snowmaking and grooming (we have to spend quite a bit of money before we produce any revenue). Once open, the winter season provides about two-thirds the annual revenue for Mt. Holiday. Because snowmaking is a variable cost, there is some control over it however, we are always at the mercy of Mother Nature.

That is how the Board knows Mt. Holiday can open; we have been here before. The real question is: When do we open and what is that going to look like? Every ski hill in Michigan has to make snow, but some years it’s easier than others (last year it was impossible because of warm temperatures during the Christmas break). It’s important for our guests to know that Holiday’s snowmaking infrastructure cannot “blow” one entire hill at a time; it has to be blown in patchwork piles and then spread across with a groomer. Even if Holiday had 30 new guns, it lacks adequate electrical connections, water supply and pumping ability to run them simultaneously. Currently, our snow gun zones only allow for three to five guns to blow in one area of the hill at a time. This has been Holiday’s challenge for decades and will continue to be until we improve its infrastructure. The good news is we have already started. The bad news, it’s expensive and we have a long way to go.

The Board, executive team and staff will open Mt. Holiday to the best of our abilities! We are committed to this community and we recognize the importance this hill has on families and children in our area. Please join in our efforts of not only keeping Mt. Holiday open this season, but for generations to come.

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