Not excited about January’s snow?
Plenty of people are, as evidenced by the crowds this week at Boston Mills and Brandywine, Summit County’s two ski resorts.
The attractions opened Dec. 28 for skiers, snowboarders and snow tube enthusiasts, many who skipped similar activities last year because of one of the warmest Ohio winters on record.
The sister sites, both based in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, also had a late start this year because of warm and rainy days in December, but the weather has been cooperating lately, and both parks are fully operational.
Visitors to Brandywine, in Sagamore Hills Township, not far from the Boston Mills hills in Boston Township, also can enjoy a new $5 million lodge that debuted last week.
Missouri-based Peak Resorts, which owns both parks, replaced Brandywine’s 50-year-old lodge with one twice the size, at about 48,000 square feet. The new two-story structure can handle far more guests, marketing director Steve Mackle said.
The first 500 guests to buy season passes were the first to get a look at the lodge Dec. 27.
The first floor includes ticket sales, a retail shop and a roomy expanse where guests can pick out their boots, skis, snowboards and poles. Brandywine also invested in hundreds of new skis and boots this year.
The upper level has a much larger cafeteria than the previous building, with 600 seats, large windows offering a panoramic view of the slopes, an 80-foot deck running the length of the lodge and a gas fireplace in a stone hearth.
It also has a bar, Trails and Ales, with 24 beers on tap.
“It’s a very practical and functional lodge,” Mackle said. It is meant to get people in, fitted with equipment and back out onto the slopes.
Unlike bigger ski destinations, people don’t stay overnight at the lodge or even spend a lot of time lingering indoors when they visit.
“People come after work or school, get a couple of hours of skiing in, and make it home in time for their favorite television show,” Mackle said.
This week found Abby LeMay of Pepper Pike on the Boston Mills slopes with her 12-year-old daughter Maggie and her 11-year-old friend Emily Glazer.
The girls had been looking forward to skiing “ever since the first snow in December,” Abby LeMay said. “We bought season passes and were waiting to use them.”
Emily said her favorite part of skiing is “going down the hill.”
Nearby, 6-year-old Caroline Williams was waiting to begin her favorite part of the day: “Going up the hill,” she said, pointing to the ski lift.
Caroline was with her parents, Steve and Gina Williams of Hudson, and her 3-year-old brother Jack, who was about to embark on his first ski adventure.
“We usually come out a few times a year,” Steve Williams said.
Except for last year. “It was so warm last year,” Gina Williams added.
Mackle said the resorts were able to make snow and open last year, but suffered greatly reduced crowds anyway.
“We had the hard-core skiers, but if you’re a weekend warrior and it’s 50 degrees outside and you’re asking yourself what are you going to do today,” skiing doesn’t come to mind, he said.
“This year is looking good again. People are seeing snow and it’s bringing them out,” he said.
Once temperatures dipped below 28 degrees, large snow-making machines were able to add to what Mother Nature provided and created a good base of snow that should last the season, hopefully into March, Mackle said.
With the exception of an annual art show at Boston Mills each summer, both facilities are only open three months out of the year. They employ 20 full-time staff members year-round, but those ranks grow to 700 part-time employees in season.
For hours, location and ticketing information, visit www.bmbw.com.