Mont Ripley reopens after warm weather closure

Garrett Neese/DMG Sandi Mattson of Houghton and her daughter Olivia Mattson, 5, ski down the hill at Mont Ripley Saturday, the first day the hill reopened.

RIPLEY — Long lines of skies and snowboarders came out Saturday for the reopening of Mont Ripley.

The Michigan Technological University ski hill had opened in December, but shut down again before Christmas due to abnormally warm temperatures and rain. There’d been 4 inches of rain in December, versus only 8 inches of snow, said Mont Ripley manager Nick Sirdenis.

“I’ve been doing this for 46 years, and I’ve never seen this at this time of year before,” he said Friday.

Temperatures had dropped enough for the hill to replenish its base with snow guns — averaging about 12 to 18 inches, though it varies by location from 5 inches to 4 feet, Sirdenis said.

“If it weren’t for snowmaking, I’d be at home watching football tomorrow,” Sirdenis said. “And I don’t like football.”

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Cade Meyer of Hancock catches some air at Mont Ripley Saturday.

The hill started the snow machines back up on New Year’s Eve, Sirdenis said. Nighttime temperatures had dropped into the teens for the past couple of nights, creating good snowmaking conditions.

The other two factors — humidity and canal temperature — also dropped, which helped. Canal temperatures, which were around 41 when snowmaking started, were already down to 37 Friday. Once the canal freezes over, it’ll be closer to 32, Sirdenis said.

“Once it ices over, we’re dealing with 32-degee water,” he said. “It’s fast when it’s coming out of the gun almost frozen.”

Mont Ripley opened up three runs Saturday, accessible via the T-Bar lift. The Husky Chair will reopen at 3 p.m. Monday. Sirdenis said Friday Racer’s Ridge and the Center Bowl were close to reopening. Once the Husky Run reopens, the hill will concentrate its firepower on filling in the Triangle and Danny Boy further west.

After a week on Danny Boy, they’ll move on to the areas east of the T-Bar.

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Skiers wait in line to ride the T-Bar to the top of the hill at Mont Ripley Saturday afternoon. Mont Ripley reopened Saturday after higher temperatures and rain forced it to close for the final week of December.

“On a good day, we’re pumping 1.5 million gallons of water onto the hill with the snow,” Sirdenis said.

Ripley was filled Saturday with people eager to get back on the slopes.

Sandi Mattson of Houghton skied down the hill guiding her daughter Olivia Mattson, 5.

“It’s great to have the hill back open,” she said. “You get some fresh air, and it helps the winter go by.”

They visit Mont Ripley two or three times a week during ski season. With the hill closed for much of December, they kept busy with indoor activities or visiting family.

“We had our pond, and that had good ice for two days,” she said.

Cade Meyer of Hancock says he typically comes every day he can during the winter.

“I was stoked it’s finally happening,” he said. “It’s a bummer that it’s been this late, but I think we’re all happy to be out here now, and hopefully we’re open for good.”

The hill had good snow Saturday, Meyer said. He said the fresh snow that fell overnight Friday had also helped.

“The lines were long, obviously, but we’re making the best of it,” he said. “We’re hiking. Whatever we need to do to ski.”


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