Fort McCoy News Dec. 9, 2016

Whitetail Ridge Ski Area staff preparing for opener

BY AIMEE MALONE
Public Affairs Staff

Even before the first snowfall, staff members have been preparing Whitetail Ridge Ski Area for its opening.

The ski area will open when hill conditions permit. To confirm the opening date, call 608-388-4498/3517 or visit the Whitetail Ridge Ski Area Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WhitetailRidge.

Joseph Sagler, outdoor recreation facility manager for the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (DFMWR), said work at the ski area began in early October by cutting down the summer's grass and weeds on the hills. Then staff members started landscaping the tubing hill, using dirt relocated from a newly constructed parking lot to widen the available space.

"Our goal is to get more tubing lanes this year," Sagler said. Five tubing lanes were available during the 2015-16 season. Sagler said he hopes to be able to open up to eight lanes this year.

Justin Sagler (left) and Zach Allen, recreation assistants with the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, wax skis Nov. 22 in preparation for the Whitetail Ridge Ski Area opening.
Justin Sagler (left) and Zach Allen, recreation assistants with the
Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, wax skis
Nov. 22 in preparation for the Whitetail Ridge Ski Area opening.
Photo
by Aimee Malone

The next step is to check the operation of snow groomers and snowmakers and flush the water lines that transport water to the snowmakers set up on the hills, said Kevin Lieder, outdoor recreation maintenance worker with DFMWR.

A ski-lift company and a separate cable company will check the lift before opening to make sure everything meets safety standards, Sagler said. Ski area staff members check the snowboard features (or obstacles) and repair them as needed. They also inspect and prepare the rental equipment for the season.

Additions to the ski area include a jumping pillow that staff members will set up to give skiers and snowboarders a safe area to land after performing jumps.

Installation of an additional electrical circuit will allow all snowmakers to run at once, improving the chances for the hill to open a little sooner, Lieder said.

In the past, the staff could run five snowmakers at a time on the tubing and ski hills, Lieder said. The new electrical circuit, positioned between the two hills, will allow staff members to run 10 snowmakers on either the tubing hill or ski hill, turning the extra five snowmakers to face whichever hill needs more attention.

Sagler said that because Whitetail Ridge doesn't have a chair lift, more snow is needed before it can open when compared to other ski resorts. A base of about 4 feet of snow is needed just to get people up the hill. "A place (with chair lifts can) blow a path 20 feet wide (for skiers), and there'll be green grass beneath their lift because they have chairs," he said.

Snowmakers work best when it's 20 degrees Fahrenheit or below, Sagler said, so warmer December weather can delay opening. Wind also affects operations.

The work won't end once the facility opens, said Shawn Stendel, outdoor recreation maintenance worker with DFMWR. Employees come in at 5 a.m. every day the area is open to groom the snow, breaking up packed down or refrozen snow to make it light and fluffy again. The process can take about five hours.

"Some days it's easier, when it stays cold and you're not getting that thaw and refreeze overnight," Stendel said.

The snowboard park is the second biggest draw to Whitetail Ridge after the tubing hill, Sagler said.

A Whitetail Ridge Ski Area staff member operates a snow-making machine during the 2015-16 ski season.
A Whitetail Ridge Ski Area staff member operates a snow-making
machine during the 2015-16 ski season.
File photo

Stendel said he's spoken to people who come to Whitetail Ridge specifically to use the snowboard park, even if they frequent other locations for different winter activities. "They come up just to use our … park because we have so much more, and the way it's set up, they think it's a lot better," he said.

This year, the staff plans to periodically rearrange the features to make repeat visits more interesting for local snowboarders, Sagler said.

Ski area staff members are planning a number of special events for the season, too. Several popular events from previous seasons will return, including the Moonlit Snowshoe Tour, Military Appreciation event, Winter Extravaganza, Cardboard Classic, and Chili Taste Off.

"The Moonlit Snowshoe Tour will be a guided snowshoe tour throughout the Whitetail Ridge trails both on the front and backside of the ski hill," said Karl Bugman, recreation specialist with DFMWR. Two routes will be available: one long and one short. Participants can bring their own snowshoes or rent them at the ski area.

The Cardboard Classic is a competition featuring cardboard sleds. Participants build their own sleds either on or off site and race them down the tubing hill.

Other planned events include tubing races, hockey and broomball tournaments, a snow fort competition, and bubble sports.

"Participants hop into inflatable plastic bubbles and compete in a couple of events: last man standing, capture the flag, sumo wrestling, and soccer," Bugman said.

Check the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WhitetailRidge for event dates, times, and costs.

Stendel said the ski area staff also encourages area snowmobilers to stop by the chalet while they're out riding. Signs will be put out on the trail saying the chalet is open.

"The (Monroe County) trail goes right in front of the chalet," Sagler said. Lieder said snowmobilers are starting to stop by more to get lunch or watch the groomers or snowmakers at work.

Snowmobiles are authorized for use only on designated, open state snowmobile trails. For more information about snowmobiling in Wisconsin, go online to dnr.wi.gov/topic/snowmobile.

The staff also encourages groups to use the area, and Sagler said the area will open for groups on closed days with a reservation.

"We really enjoy getting church groups and school groups to come out," Sagler said.

Whitetail Ridge Ski Area is open to the public. The ski area is not on the cantonment area, and visitor passes are not required to access the area.