2017-12-28 / Outdoors

Winter wonderland a welcome sight to area ski resorts, skiers

Enthusiasm is high among downhill skiers — or “speed junkies,” as Mark Fisher calls them — this winter.

Fisher, who coached Glen Lake ski teams for 23 years, hasn’t had a chance to hit the slopes this year, but he’s itchin’ to ASAP.

“You don’t have your face stuck in front of a phone,” Fisher said when asked about the sport, “and depending on your ability and thrill-seeking level, it’s an adrenaline rush.”

Adrenaline rushes were few and far between last year in what was a wet and warm start to ski season.

This season, on the other hand, is shaping up to be a dandy. Fresh powder from the heavens and snow machines figures to have all area resorts 100 percent open by New Year’s Eve.

“It’s going to be an awesome year,” said Fisher, who lives in Maple City and skies everywhere from Boyne Highlands to Crystal Mountain.

Tom Bartholomew, the mountain manager at The Homestead Resort, had similar things to say about the season.

“If we look at last year at the same time, it was warm and rainy,” Bartholomew said. “Now it’s cold and snowy. It’s ideal. We would like a couple degrees warmer, but it’s not bad. I’m excited with all the fresh snow.”

And the cooperation from Mother Nature thus far has the ski industry buzzing, Bartholomew said. Runs at The Homestead opened for the season on Tuesday, and Bartholomew said he expects traffic to pick up this afternoon.

He said about 120 skiers showed up for The Homestead’s 2017-18 kickoff event and food drive for Leelanau Christian Neighbors on Saturday.

“It’s been gorgeous,” he said.

Fisher said The Homestead, Leelanau County’s lone ski resort since the closure of Sugar Loaf, is an ideal destination for kids and beginners. He also recommended Mount Holiday in Grand Traverse County.

Beginners would be wise to take a lesson before bombing bigger hills, Fisher said.

“It’s totally trial and error,” said Fisher, whose coaching days began at The Leelanau School, “but you can really set someone up for success with just a little help and some pointers.”

John Kasben, who stepped in for Fisher as coach of the Glen Lake ski teams, had plenty of pointers to offer last week when his Lakers practiced for the first time at Crystal Mountain.

The program, which features four boys and six girls from three county schools this season, is slated to compete for the first time on Wednesday.

The Glen Lake girls won the Lake Michigan Ski Conference last season but narrowly missed out on a return trip to states at the regional competition.

“They should be pretty solid,” Kasben said of the girls.

Regardless of their regional finishes, Glen Lake skiers and others from Leelanau County are bound to have a good time on the slopes this winter.

For now, there’s plenty of snow.

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