'I've never seen anything like this'

Becky Vargo • Jan 8, 2018 at 10:00 AM

A solid foot of base, cold temperatures and a constant barrage of fluffy white snow have combined to start a banner season for winter outdoor activities.

“We’ve been very busy,” said Ottawa County Parks spokesperson Jessica VanGinhoven, when asked about Pigeon Creek Park. “This is definitely the best winter we’ve had in a couple years. The week of winter break brought in more revenue than all season last year.”

The equipment rentals and concessions pay for the operation of the county park, VanGinhoven said.

Located at 12524 Stanton St. in West Olive, Pigeon Creek is one of the only parks with groomed and tracked cross-country skiing trails in the region. The park also has a sledding hill and snowshoe trails.

The lodge with ski rentals and concessions is open most days from 4-8 p.m. It is open at 1-10 p.m. on Fridays, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays, and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays. More information can be found at: www.miottawa.org/Parks/pigeoncreek.htm.

Muskegon Winter Sports Complex

The closest park with groomed and lighted trails is the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex at 462 N. Scenic Drive. It also features ice skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and a luge run.

The complex’s executive director, Jim Rudicil, said they are also experiencing a banner year.

“It’s very nice to have all our venues online the entire break,” Rudicil said of the past week. “That’s not always the case. Last year, we had the first two days, and then everything melted. Last year was one of our worst.”

Weather conditions have a huge impact on the non-profit facility that has no outside funding, Rudicil said.

“Last year it was crisis control,” he said. “This year, the crisis of the day is — Do we have enough parking spots?”

Daily use fees run from $5 to $10. Details can be found on the Winter Sports Complex website at www.msports.org.

Rudicil said the fees pay for the buildings, equipment, maintenance, insurance and wages.

The organization has a lease agreement with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for the use of the property, which is located on Muskegon’s north shore. 

Because conditions are so good, Rudicil recommends people try using the rinks and trails at the complex on weekday evenings. All of the skiing and skating trails and the ice rinks are lighted. Only the snowshoe trails are not lighted.

The complex is open between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. seven days a week. There is a lodge with equipment rentals and concessions. 

Ski Bowl

Downhill skiers have found fantastic conditions at Grand Haven’s Ski Bowl. 

Manager Benji Stone said the cold temperatures have helped create ideal snow conditions at the local ski hill. 

“Our head of maintenance, John Spruit, has been here for 18 years, and he said he’s never seen the amount of snow we have on the hill right now,” Stone said. “For the first time, we’ve been able to do tree skiing in the trees next to the tank because there’s so much snow. I’ve never seen anything like this. 

“These cold temps with very low humidity cause this beautiful powder snow,” he continued. “You can feel the difference in the texture when you’re skiing. It’s setting up for us to have possibly the best season Mulligan’s Hollow has ever had.”

Stone said that, in a normal year, 150 skiers on the hill is a busy night. 

“We’ve been open 14 days this year and we’ve had over 200 skiers every night,” he said. “Besides the plow truck drivers, we’re probably the only ones in town this excited about the snow.”

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