ZANESFIELD — It’s not quite ski season, but the folks at Mad River Mountain are prepping anyway.
Next weekend will kick off its ski swap and rail jam, the first time they’ve taken place at the same time, said Greg Fisher, Mad River’s general manager.
Inside, the lodge is converted into a big garage sale, essentially, with boots, bindings and all kinds of outdoor gear like kayaks and camping items for sale. A percentage of the sale price benefits the ski patrol at Mad River, all volunteers.
“It does a good amount of business,” Fisher said, explaining there have been about 400 people in attendance in the past.
“Outside, we’re bringing in 50,000 pounds of shredded ice to create a mini terrain park with small jumps and rails for people to come out and hop on some skis or boards and do tricks off of,” Fisher said.
Enjoy music, barbecue, a bonfire and beer garden outside.
Mad River Mountain is set to be open the second weekend of December, weather permitting. Last year’s warm weather prevented that, Fisher said, but the second weekend is traditionally the right timing.
Mad River has the capacity to make snow, but that depends on a complicated formula of temperature, humidity and windspeed for three nights in a row.
“Ideally, you want it to be 25 degrees or less, and then you can make quality, really good snow,” Fisher said.
Last year, the park made moguls, bumps in the middle of some of the trails.
“We’re going to try to do that as early as possible this year,” Fisher said.
Mad River has made a few improvements for guests, including new food items, a different location for the locker rooms, more seating in the main base area and new signage on the hill.
“We really focused on the guest experience,” Fisher said.
Tubing remains a popular draw at Mad River. There are 10 lanes, each 1,000 feet long. Visitors can go upwards of 40 mph on a tube, Fisher said.
“The tubing hill that we have here is massive, and it’s amazing,” he said.
But he emphasized safety, as it’s difficult to fall out and hurt yourself if riding properly. The only rule, per se, is one rider per tube. Young children need to ride in their own tube, but it can be strapped together with an adult’s tube.
On the hill proper, there are 24 ski trails from which to choose. Rental equipment is available, with older equipment culled every year. Boots are available up to men’s size 15.
Fisher is in his second year at Mad River Mountain, transferring from a sister property in Vermont. He’s impressed with what Mad River has to offer.
“It really feels like a ski resort,” he said. “It has trees. It has defined trails. We have a good amount of terrain that’s varied. So I really think Mad River has a nice little appeal to it.”
He’s impressed with all the “diehards” in this area, too.
“The thing about Midwest skiers and snowboarders is they’re going to come out no matter what the weather’s like,” he said. “If you ski all sorts of conditions, you can basically ski anywhere. I think the Midwest kind of gives you everything in between.”
Mad River Mountain's tubing park