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Manmade snow, but natural fun

Next to open?

Coffee Mill Ski Area in Wabasha hopes to open next weekend. Steeplechase north of Oronoco is making snow and also hopes to open soon.

By John Weiss

weiss@postbulletin.com

RED WING — The woods around Welch Village were brown, only three of the ski hill’s slopes had manmade snow, and the weather was warm.

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But still the skiers and snowboarders came out Saturday.

There’s something about the first chance to go down a hill, no matter the conditions, that just pulls people to the slopes. About 500 came out Friday and probably more over the weekend.

Here are some of their stories:

• Phyllis Barnidge of Rochester was there with husband and two sons. She went because Miles, 12, loves to board. "I love to be with my son," she said.

Miles had no objections. "I love to do this because it’s fun to get outside," he said. He loved being at Welch early and hopes he’ll be there until the snow melts and the ski area closes.

• Doug Sundberg of Elk River, Minn., went with a buddy to board. "Nice day out," he said. "Came here for the opener; get some boarding before I have to go to work today."

• Heather Doty of Hastings, Minn., was there with her children, Hudson, 3, and Logan, 6, and her husband, Dennis Doty. They had just gotten back from skiing in Colorado’s mountains and were eager to keep skiing, she said. She wanted to start her children early and keep them skiing.

Was it fun?

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"Yeah," came the small voices of Hudson and Logan.

• Twins Tony and Alex Seyffer of from Red Wing were there to go down ramps, boxes and jumps in their twin-tipped skis, which were designed to do many of the moves boarders do.

Though hills around were brown, the skiers had to go.

"The exercise, the adrenaline rush," Tony Seyffer said. "It’s just a good feeling when you land a good trick you’ve been trying for a while. It just, like, gets your blood pumping."

• Leigh Nelson, as is his custom, made the first run down a Welch Village slope when it opened Friday.

He was exhilarated, as he is every year.

The owner of the ski area west of Red Wing in Welch grew up about a quarter mile from the hill and began skiing on crude skis when he was 6. He remembers going down a hill cut through woods and over a jump, flying 18 feet in the air.

"Never had so much fun in my life," said Nelson who recently became a great-grandfather. "There’s a freedom to it. You guide your own destiny."

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