OTSEGO TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Bittersweet Ski Resort has opened for the season ahead of Thanksgiving. The early start is rare in the resort’s history, but the cold weather and recent snow helped make it possible.
Dan Hill, a ski instructor and National Ski Patrol member, has worked at the resort for more than 20 years. He only remembers opening this early a few other times. Despite the brief warmup in the forecast, he does not expect to close.
“Once we open, we like to stay open through the year,” he said. “If you have as many snow guns as we do and you can make a great base, then you can stay open through the warmup.”
There is a new highspeed chair lift at Bittersweet this year called “Snow Flyer.” It is the resort’s second highspeed lift. It will be open soon after Thanksgiving once all the safety tests are done and when managers expect the bigger crowds.
The high-speed lift differs from a standard lift in that the chairs are detachable, so they move quickly up and down the hill and then slow down as they detach and connect to the housing at the base and top of the mountain.
“The line can run fast, but it’s not going to make the chair come whipping around fast. It detaches, you can sit down and get comfortable and then it connects to the cable. The idea being you can get a lot more skiers up quicker,” said Hill.
There were large crowds of skiers and snowboarders crowding the hills at Bittersweet last year, which created a bottleneck. Hill believes adding the high-speed lift will help keep everyone moving, although it took a big investment to make it happen.
“It’s significant. I think that is why most of your ski resorts, at least in Michigan, do not have detachable chairs,” Hill said.
Bittersweet made other improvements to improve the flow of people, including changes to the equipment rental area and the addition of automatic sliding doors as skiers leave with their equipment.
“Anybody knows that when you are carrying all that equipment for the first time, you are bumping into people and skis are dropping. Having that one door for everybody to flow one way and having it automatic, even though that sounds like a small improvement, that is going to be a very large improvement,” said Hill.
Bittersweet has been running the snow guns constantly to get a good snowpack down, and the grooming trucks also run every night.