ELLICOTTVILLE - The weather has started to turn to a darker, brisk season as the leaves start to let go of the trees and fall to the ground. Soon, those leaves will be coated in a white blanket, and skiers and boarders will be gliding over that blanket in the region's snowbelt.
Holiday Valley and HoliMont have both been busy over the summer, making their slopes a better place for those looking for the gravity-aided sport of downhill skiing, or snowboarding. Each have invested millions of dollars in new features, all to attract more people to their brands of snow services.
At Holiday Valley, the usual multi-million dollar investment has gone into creating a year-round resort, but a lot of improvements have been made in preparation for the winter. The $3.1 million investment will make for a better surface for skiers and boarders, alike, as well as helping those new to snow sports learn in a fun environment, according to Jane Eshbaugh, marketing director of the resort.
The addition of 70 new snow guns, the HKD SV-10, will help snowmaking to be a better, more streamlined, process. The guns are automated to be able to crank out snow quicker and more efficiently, when conditions reach the perfect point. Eshbaugh said the temperatures need to be under 28 degrees, in general, to make snow. Humidity also plays into the quality of the product that will hit the slopes. The colder it is, the better, she said. The lower the humidity, the better as well. The guns have been installed on Edelweiss, Sunrise, Cindy's and Foxfire.
In addition to being able to throw more man-made snow on the surface, steeper hills can now be groomed a bit better after the purchase of a Pisten Bully 600 Active Boom Winch Cat groomer. Eshbaugh said the machine extends the fulcrum of the pulling area for a better angle with more even pressure, creating a better surface.
What's that mean? Well, for those steep hills that always seem to have an unevenly maintained surface, fanned out from top to bottom, the surface will be groomed and packed in more of a uniform fashion. The hydraulic boom pulls the snow more uniformly to get better coverage for those "hard to get" areas.
For the fun, less "behind the scenes" side of the resort, additions and improvements have been made in how to teach new snowboarders how to ride, Eshbaugh said. The newly created Riglet Park, by Burton, will be built at the Outpost, at the base of School Haus East. The idea behind the park is to teach new youth skiers and riders on a surface that minimizes the slopes, giving more control. The lessons will be taught on areas that will either be small boxes or flat surfaces. Some of the learning will even be possible through leashes attached to the front of the board or skis, according to Eshbaugh.
For beginner borders that are a bit leery of hitting the terrain park to try full-scale tricks, a new, terrain-based learning park will be part of the new and exciting things going on. The learning area will use terrain features for skiers and boarders, alike, to develop important skills, such as stopping, gliding and turns.
"You'll feel like a rider from the beginning," Eshbaugh said.
Holiday Valley made improvements to its Sky High Adventure Park this year as well, making the climbing and adventure more of a heart-racing, adrenaline rush. New climbing and crossing stations have gone in to add to the challenge, Eshbaugh said.
For those that will be staying at The Valley for an extended period, The Inn has received a makeover as well, Eshbaugh said. Overall, the expansion that included the new lodge in 2012 has been capped off and the resort has updated to have a new look.
Weather permitting, Eshbaugh said the slopes are planned to open the day after Thanksgiving, as has become tradition.
The slopes on the other side of the valley, at Holimont, have seen some improvement over the summer months as well, according to Dash Hegeman, marketing director. Entering the 51st season, the largest private ski area in North America has done their annual work in repairing or replacing sections of the snowmaking and utility infrastructure at the park, but more has happened since the snow melted last year.
The largest investment made at the HoliMont slopes has been in the $3 million infrastructure build in the WestMont Ridge expansion project. That investment has created roads, installed electric, sewer and other utilities in the ski-in development community. As the place is developed, the final project is expected to be a $22 million investment.
WestMont Ridge is a development of 31 single family, residential lots. The community boasts ski in/out facilities with mountain views, park and pipe terrain with lighted, night time hours, access to a day lodge with dining and other member services, and parking accommodations. To date, 10 lots, ranging from 0.39 to 0.59 acres, are available. To find out more about the community, or to purchase a lot, contact HoliMont Realty at 699-2826.
The main chalet at the ski area has seen the complete teardown and rebuild of mens and womens bathrooms. Another construction is about midway up the hill where a rustic lodge is in the finishing stages. The lodge is a bare-bones area where skiers can stop to warm themselves on those cold skiing days.
The lift crew has been working hard on repairing and painting lifts throughout the area. The Meadow lift has been rebuilt and painted to better match the Exhibition Express high-speed detachable quad lift that was installed last year. As that work takes place, the water lines for snowmaking on the 50 slopes and trails will be thoroughly checked, and the rest of the eight lifts will all be ready to go at the start of the ski season.