Storm blows in snow for Winter Park
The snowstorm that dropped more than a foot of snow on Kewaunee County Monday will help county employees open Winter Park for tubing and skiing by Jan. 9, said Dave Myers, Kewaunee County promotion and recreation director.
While some people had hoped it would be open by New Year’s Day, “you can’t turn a magic key and open the park,” said Barry Nelson of the Winter Park Recreation Association,, explaining that the park couldn’t be opened immediately after the storm because the hills still needed more of a snow base and to be groomed for skiers and tubers.
“The 60 mph winds that came with the storm took snow right off the hill and blew it into the woods,” Myers said.
But he said the snow did provide a base to make snow. It also allowed the ground to freeze after the Christmas holiday when the temperatures were unseasonably warm, Myers said.
The parks crew began making snow on Wednesday after the roads were plowed wide enough to let trucks travel to the hill. After a few days of snow making, the crew will begin grooming the hills, provided the temperatures stay below freezing, Myers said.
This is a week earlier than last year, when the park didn’t open until mid-January, he said.
In spite of the fact that the county-operated park wasn’t open for the Christmas holidays last year, it still drew more than 9,000 skiers and tubers from January through March, he said.
The park has three ski runs, one of which was reconfigured a few years ago into six tubing lanes, Myers said.
The Winter Park Recreation Association (WPRA) is a not-for-profit organization that has helped provide extra funding and volunteers to improve the park, Nelson said. Last year, the group helped fund a new addition to the ski chalet that includes a gas fireplace and large windows with expansive views of the hills.
The park is primarily staffed by college students and other seasonal workers. But it depends on volunteers to help with the ski, snowboard, snowshoe and tube rentals and the concession stand, said Nelson, who with his wife, Barbara, has helped lead the WPRA for 30 years.
The tubing lanes are the most popular, Myers said. When Winter Park opened its private party bookings for the weekdays on Nov. 1, Jennifer Salentine, promotion and recreation secretary, reported that she had 15 bookings in the first half-hour.
There is no sledding or tobogganing on the hills in the park, although it was previously a sledding hill before the rope lifts were installed, Myers said.
“Lots of people tell me that they used to go sledding on the hills, but that was before my time,” said Myers.
The park also does not have cross-country ski trails, but Myers said he hopes that he and his staff will have time to groom some cross-country trails around Bruemmer Park that go down by the river. There are also trails the county grooms near Ryan Park, he said. Snowshoes are primarily used in the woods around the ski hills, he said.
Snowmobiling in the county is focused on the Ahnapee State Trail, which is maintained and used by the five snowmobile clubs, Myers said. They also assume responsibility for grooming the trail for snowmobilers, he said.
The Winter Park Recreation Association raised funds this year to add an additional storage shed for the tubes at Winter Park, Nelson said. He said that they also financed a new lift pump from the Kewaunee River to bring water to a holding pond that is then used by the snow-making machines, Nelson said.
“We do little improvements as the money comes in,” he said. “But what we really need is more volunteers to run the concession stands and help with rentals.”
Nelson, who is a “lifelong skier,” said that he still finds time to ski Winter Park each year.
Anyone interested in volunteering at Winter Park can call Nelson at 920-388-3738.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Storm blows in snow for Winter Park