SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Skiers and snowboarders, anxious to hit the slopes before the end of the year, finally got their chance Thursday. Great Bear Ski Valley in Sioux Falls opened for the season with limited runs. The brand-new chairlift was as much of an attraction as the fresh covering of snow.
As people started lining up, Great Bear staff brushed off the artificial snow from the the seats. Then the new chair lift was ready to launch. Former Great Bear employee Brennan Ahnberg was the first snowboarder in line.
“It makes me feel pretty good, very privileged. Yep. I’m excited for it,” Ahnberg said.
Jim Whitcomb of Sioux Falls was the first skier on the lift.
“We’ve been coming out here for what, 50 years? Fifty. So we come here today, we’re going to be the first guys up the hill. Brand new chairlift. I’m really excited. I’ve been waiting for this a long time,” Whitcomb said.
General Manager Dan Grider made sure the opening-day crowd got on the chairlift orderly and safely as this state-of-the-art piece of machinery made its debut.
“It’s a better piece of equipment for the staff, our team members and also for the guests. It’s a better experience for everyone,” Grider said.
The first people to go up were impressed with the smooth ride to the top.
“It was everything I hoped it would be. First one down the hill and the snow is absolutely perfect. You guys don’t come out here today, you’re nuts,” Whitcomb said.
The new chairlift should get more people to the top of the hill more quickly, and shortening the wait for people in line, down below.
“The line will be long, but it will be moving a lot faster up the hill. Instead of waiting at the bottom, you’ll be waiting at the top to come down,” Ahnberg said.
Great Bear’s newest attraction is lifting spirits at the start of ski season.
“Snow’s gonna be just perfect. Sunshine and it’s not windy. We’re here, baby,” Whitcomb said.
Great Bear is on extended holiday hours through the weekend.
Friday night’s fireworks show has been moved up a couple of hours to 10 p.m. due to the cold weather.