LEAD, SD -
This winter there has been a noticeable lack of snowfall across much of KELOLAND. That's causing headaches for many businesses in the Black Hills that rely on snow. In spite of the dry winter, the Ski Mystic resort has found a way to beat the weather.
Just a few miles outside of Lead on Deer Mountain, the Zero Gravity Tube Park takes guests on a wild ride.
"Stand at the bottom of the hill on any given day and you'll hear laughs and screams all day long from almost every group that comes down, so the reaction has been amazing," Ski Mystic co-owner Mark Brockman said.
Brockman purchased the Ski Mystic resort on Deer Mountain in 2008. Located in the shadow of the much larger Terry Peak ski resort, Brockman decided that the key to success was to offer people something different.
"We came into the business five years ago and really evaluated what were our strengths, what were we good at? Maybe where the other resort has a corner on the market, we really feel like we focused on the family and with the Zero Gravity Tube Park we have an offering that is kind of unique to the family," Brockman said.
Given the notable lack of natural snow that has fallen so far this winter, the tube park also allows the snow makers at Deer Mountain to beat the weather by concentrating their efforts.
"There wasn't a lot of snow, so you had a lot of snowmobilers who already had their vacations booked and they couldn't snowmobile so they came tubing," Brockman said.
The tube park has five different runs that offer riders varying levels of intensity.
"It's kind of been designed to accommodate little people up to grandmas and grandpas. And especially over the holidays, we got to see that multi-generational effect. The whole family can do it and that's what our goal was," Brockman said.
Though the snow conditions often play a factor in how fast tubes fly down the hill, on a slick day you can actually catch some air.
"It goes really fast, you can't even open your eyes. It's really fun," 15-year old tuber Regina Geier said.
"It feels like a roller coaster almost. You know that downward feeling? It's really kind of like a roller coaster," 17-year old tuber Allie Geier said.
"We put some curves and banks and some minor jumps that make you feel like you're in zero gravity, so we've really put a lot of attention into making it more of a thrill, more of an amusement park type feel," Brockman said.
The Geier family is from northeastern South Dakota, Roscoe and Watertown to be exact.
"We made the trip out here. And we've got some relatives, my brother and his wife and kids, and we met at the cabin and they wanted to check it out and it sounds like they're having a good time," Bruce Geier said.
"My cousin has a cabin out here, so we just find things to do and this is one of the things that we like to do," Allie said.
The 1,000 foot lift takes tubers to the top of the area. Once there, they descend 250 vertical feet to the bottom.
The twists and turns of the park make for an exciting and fast-paced ride that you don't need to be a skier or snowboarder to experience.
"It's a good way to get some fresh air and just unwind and spend time with the family and just do something different," Bruce said.
And the thrill of the ride brings people back season after season.
"It has not only benefited us but I really feel like it's helped out the whole region in the Black Hills," Brockman said.
The Zero Gravity Tube Park is open Friday through Sunday and should operate through March. For more information, visit Ski Mystic's website.
Click on the video below for a virtual ride:
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