Fort McCoy News Dec. 11, 2015

Whitetail Ridge Ski Area readies for Dec. 26 opening

STORY & PHOTOS BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

Fort McCoy's Whitetail Ridge Ski Area will open to the public for the 2015-16 season Saturday, Dec. 26, weather permitting.

Once open, Whitetail operates every Friday, 4:30 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. The ski area typically remains open until mid-March.

Photo 1
Jon Vonderehe, maintenance staff member at Fort McCoy's Whitetail Ridge Ski Area, performs maintenance on a snowmaker.

The 200-acre ski facility provides the Fort McCoy community and public with multiple opportunities.

Downhill skiers and snowboarders can enjoy four groomed and lighted ski runs equipped with a self-loading T-bar lift.

For snow tubers, an 800-foot slope offers five tubing runs and a rope tow to get tubers to the top of the slope.

When natural snow conditions are sufficient, cross-country skiers have access to more than 5 miles of groomed trails.

"We also have a skating rink here for people to use — you just have to bring your own skates," said Outdoor Recreation Manager Pam Budda with the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.

"Also, if you are staying at the cabins at Pine View (Campground), and if there is enough snow, people can drive their snowmobiles along the established trail right over to the ski area," she said.

Budda said everything is being prepared for the opening.

"Everyone has been working hard to get the ski area ready," Budda said.

"In preparing the area, our staff is going through all of the equipment and systems to make sure everything is working and any (needed) repairs are done."

Photo 2
Randy Shull, Whitetail maintenance staff member, completes a
maintenance check on a snow groomer.

Whitetail maintenance personnel use snow-making equipment to get the slopes prepared for the opening.

"Usually around Thanksgiving (each year), we start making snow if the conditions are favorable," Budda said.

The addition of four new snowmakers also should allow a lot more snow to be made this year.

Kevin Lieder with the Whitetail maintenance staff said the optimal condition to make snow is when the temperature is about 12 degrees Fahrenheit with about 60 percent humidity.

"We can make snow when it's 20 degrees or cooler, but we've had success when it's been slightly warmer as well," Lieder said.

Once a good snow base is established, staff members use snow groomers to level and pack the snow.

"We've been operating with two groomers, but this year we'll also have a third," Lieder said.

"We should have it here in time for the opening," he said.

Whitetail customers also will see several improvements this season.

"We've had some renovations going on at the bottom floor of the ski chalet that we think our customers will appreciate," Budda said. "Plus, we've put in new furniture at the facility. It's going to look a lot different for our customers."

Also, a new gearbox was installed in the T-bar lift; a new fire pit was built at a more convenient location; and the food service area has been upgraded to allow for more self-service options.

Whitetail is supported by the National Ski Patrol, and volunteer patrol members monitor activity on the slopes to promote safety and to attend to any injuries.

Budda said the more than 40 people employed at Whitetail each season work hard to make the experience a good one for their customers.

"All of our staff help customers in addition to other duties," Budda said.

"We are a Family-friendly facility, and we take great pride in taking care of our customers."

Randy Shull, also with the Whitetail maintenance staff, said he enjoys his work.

"I love working outdoors and the one-on-one interaction with the customers," Shull said.

Lift tickets and on-site equipment rental are available at daily or seasonal rates. Whitetail Ridge facilities also are available at special rates for group functions.

"Through Dec. 22, customers also can take advantage of our early bird specials for season passes," Budda said.

Whitetail is located off of Highway 21 at Fort McCoy.

Customers just have to follow the signs that will take them right to the area.

For more information about the ski area, ticket and rental prices, and more, call 608-388-3517, or go online to http://www.mccoy.armymwr.com or http://www.facebook.com/whitetailridge.