Merrimac, Portage ski resorts open for season

November 26, 2018
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Skiers and snowboarders wait for their turn on a chairlift at Devil's Head Resort and Convention Center in Merrimac Friday afternoon.

Despite temperatures rising to a balmy 48 degrees on Friday, area ski resorts opened their slopes for business over the weekend.

Devil’s Head Resort and Convention Center in Merrimac opened eight full runs Friday, along with three chairlifts and one magic carpet lift, according to Marketing Director Alex Stoick. Friday was its season opener.

In one of the resort’s earliest opening weekends, “spring-like” conditions on Friday and Saturday made for soft snow and “excellent” skiing, Stoick said. There also was more snow-covered terrain than he can ever remember so early in the season, thanks to about two weeks of sustained cold weather allowing snow guns to produce more than usual.

“So that’s exciting,” Stoick said.

The snow guns can pump out about 4,500 gallons of water per minute and run for 12-hour shifts, he said. According to the resort’s snow report, its groomed hills have a snow base of up to 24 inches.

Cascade Mountain in Portage, which also opened Friday, reported a base of 12-36 inches of snow, according to its website.

Joe Vittengl, general manager of Devil’s Head, said guests had reserved roughly 60 hotel rooms over the weekend, which he noted is slightly low. He blamed the news for forecasting rain on Friday.

But Stoick pointed to -- natural -- snow expected to fall Sunday as what will put people in the mindset for winter sports. Weather.com forecasted a 20 percent chance of snow in Baraboo Sunday, with Winter Storm Bruce bypassing most of Wisconsin. The storm was expected to bring blizzard conditions as far north as Milwaukee.

Thursday will bring another chance of snow showers, according to Weather.com.

“We’ll see occupancy fill up drastically once we see snow,” Stoick said. “It’s game on from there.”

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