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Winter fun but not for everyone

Fluctuating weather impacting local ski resort.
Posted at 5:52 PM, Dec 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-27 18:20:15-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Winter break has officially begun. Monday afternoon, people were enjoying the day either sledding on the hills at Richmond Park and Mary Waters Park, or ice skating at Van Andel Arena, home of the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Norah Bolmen and Josie Sobel were excited to hit the ice.

“I’ve actually been here before,” Norah said. “I actually sang the national anthem the first day, the first game this year.”

Sisters Felicity and Mary Norton were excited to skate as well.

“I’m really pumped,” Mary said.

“We got our ice skates for Christmas,” Felicity said while holding a pair. Mary was holding a pair of skates too.

“So, now we really want to go,” Mary said.

Van Andel arena told FOX 17 that they were all booked up. However they had a few no-shows on Monday, which allowed them to let others inside.

Despite the success they’ve been having at Van Andel with ice skating, this winter season has been harsh for skiers.

“We opened December 9 and 10, had to close because of warm weather. About a week and half went by, got cold enough again, made snow, opened up for two more days. [Then] closed down because of the rain,” said Victor Gayheart of Bittersweet Ski Resort in Allegan County. “Opened back up Friday, which was Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day it rained again.”

Gayheart said it’s been hard to stay open consistently due to the warm temperatures this month. So, when they can, they make snow.

He said it can take eight hours to make two inches.

“It takes a couple of hours to start everything,” Gayheart said. “We had about 210 snow guns here. So, it’s really time-consuming. So, we will start them early if we know it’s going to get cold.”

Gayheart said skiers have been understanding, which has been helpful.

Bittersweet went through something similar last winter, opening later in the season, on December 17, due to warm weather, he recalled. However after that, the cold set in, the snow fell, and the resort was able to remain open for the rest of the season.

Gayheart hopes this happens again.

“We hope this is it. Hopefully Mother Nature says ‘OK, you know, spring’s over, jokes over,’” Gayheart said. “It’s time for you guys to get going again. Get going and stay open.”