Welch, area ski operations gearing up for 2013 opening
WELCH — When Welch Village fired up its 125 snow guns early last week, the excitement was palpable among the roughly 8,000 season pass holders. In fact, many actually watched fall artificially turn to winter through the popular ski destination's official webcam .
However, intrepid ski bums will have to look north for fresh powder for at least a few more days.
Stephanie Prink, Welch Village 's communications director, said Sunday that the Goodhue County business has circled this Friday for its 2013 opener.
"The minute they hear we're making snow, they're anticipating we're open," Prink said. "They are kind of chomping, especially the kids."
Wild Mountain in Taylors Falls opened for business over the weekend with five of its 26 runs available for use. Prink said Buck Hill in Burnsville was open last week, but its website listed all 16 runs as being closed.
Prink said Welch Village could have opened over the weekend after creating huge piles of snow when the temperatures dipped into the 20s early last week. However, she wanted to avoid a situation where it opened for a few days and then had to close again when the weather warmed up.
Welch Village typically targets the Friday after Thanksgiving for its opening, but that timeline has been bumped up given the holiday's late date this year.
"We made enough (snow) where we could have opened this last weekend, but we wanted to wait because of the forecast — and thankfully so because of the rain we got," Prink said.
"The longer we can let the piles sit, the more they dry out. By letting the piles sit for a couple of days, minimum, it's easier to blade out."
Temperatures are supposed to be in the 40s most of the week before dipping as the weekend approaches, according to the National Weather Service. There's a 30 percent chance of snow Friday, however, which could give local skiers an opportunity to enjoy fresh powder on their first runs of the year.
Afton Alps in Hastings will be unveiling its $10 million upgrade shortly. The 300-acre facility received a summer facelift and is expected to open at about the same time at Welch Village. The improvements include a new guest services facility, a fourth terrain park and new dining facilities, among other improvements.
Coffee Mill Ski Area in Wabasha is not currently open, but it's unclear what its plans are over the coming weeks. Calls made over the weekend were not returned.