SIOUX FALLS, SD -
Skiers and snowboarders are returning to Great Bear Friday after the park had to shut down Thursday because of the bitter cold. It's been an uphill climb for Great Bear during this winter's weather extremes.
Thanks to a snowy Christmas holiday, Great Bear had its best-ever December despite opening a couple weeks later than usual. But a stretch of rainy, warm weather in January, followed by this week's blast of arctic cold has Great Bear seeking a more manageable middle ground the rest of the winter.
Great Bear fires up its snow guns when wind chills make it too dangerous for customers to hit the slopes. The fresh blanketing of manufactured snow is an enticing mid-winter lure to skiers and snowboarders who had to chill-out on Thursday.
"It will be exciting. It will be fun; fresh powder is a lot better than just everyday snow," Sioux Falls snowboarder Alex Lerdal said.
Thursday's brutal blast of cold was just the latest weather extreme to clear the slopes at Great Bear. Before that, unseasonal January rain turned the snow into slush, stopping skiers and snowboarders in their tracks.
"People don't like to ski in the rain and they don't like to ski when it's 10 below out either, so I would like to see some moderation," Great Bear General Manager Dan Grider said.
Now that we're into February, Great Bear is hitting the back stretch of ski season. In a perfect world, Great Bear would like to stay open for another six weeks. But that all depends upon the weather.
"We want to make sure that everybody feels like the season pass holders got plenty of value. Obviously, we want to generate as much revenue as we can because that's how we pay our bills," Grider said.
Great Bear hopes the snow they're making now will extend the season through mid-March. But temperatures forecasted to climb above freezing is just another example of the up and down nature of snow business.
"There's nothing we can do about it, and quite frankly, with good snow conditions, 40 degrees is fun to ski in," Grider said.
Grider says Great Bear typically sees big crowds over Super Bowl weekend.
On Sunday, skiers and snowboarders are invited to let loose in the KELO-TV Speed Races. Registration is at 9 a.m.; the races start at 1 p.m.
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