Warm weather takes toll on Indiana ski resorts

January 8, 2016

With winter weather finally arriving in southern Indiana, Paoli Peaks Ski Resort—one of only two ski resorts in Indiana—was able to open three of its trails Monday with more opening throughout this week.

With regional temperatures dipping below freezing overnight each of the past five days, Paoli Peaks is able to operate its snow guns to cover more of the Orange County park's terrain each day. Dozens of skiers and snowboarders showed up Tuesday to check out the first trails, with two lifts operating throughout the afternoon and into the evening.

Indiana's only other ski resort, Perfect North Slopes in Lawrenceburg, also was able to open this week after being closed for all but two days in December. The facility hoped to have about half its runs open this weekend. 

Lauren Grenier, Paoli Peaks' director of marketing and administration, said the staff usually starts making snow sometime in late November, but warmer temperatures throughout much of December delayed the opening of the facility about 95 miles south of Indianapolis.

Making snow is a fairly easy process, Grenier said. Snow guns are essentially big fans that push water through the blades creating a mist. With temperatures below freezing, the mist solidifies into snow. The snow guns are strategically placed by crews in order to cover the resort's terrain where need be, and 12 solid hours of snowmaking can cover the resort's 65 acres with 1 foot of snow. Base depth on open trails varies between 2 feet and 3 feet.

"It's limited terrain right now, but as we have more snow-making we'll be able to open more trails," Grenier said.

Grenier said Paoli Peaks officials are looking to have everything open by Friday. That's when they will co-host what's being termed the World's Largest Ski and Snowboard Lesson along with other resorts across the country. The event is being put on by the Learn to Ski and Snowboard initiative, a national organization that seeks to bring youth and adults who have never tried snow sports the opportunity to hit the slopes.

Grenier said lessons will commence at 10 a.m. local time at resorts from Maine to California in hopes of setting a mark recognized by Guinness World Records. Despite wet and warmer weather predicted for Friday, Grenier is expecting a good turnout in Paoli.

"Resorts can achieve awards for the single largest lesson by resort, but the goal is collective for all resorts," Grenier said. "Because we've had such a delayed start, a lot of people are hesitant to purchase passes or sign up (for lessons), but I'm anticipating a lot of people showing up this week because now we've been able to make some snow."

Phil Mundy, owner of the local outdoor retailer Adventures Recreation and Gear in Jasper, said this season's weather has played a weird role in his business. When he'd normally be selling jackets and cold weather outerwear, his biggest sales have been in cycling gear throughout the month of December.

"I got 65 miles (cycling) in this weekend," Mundy laughed. "You never know what to expect (from the weather)."

With the colder weather finally arriving, he said he's starting to see a slight increase in jacket sales.


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