Gladstone prepares to open ski hill for season

GLADSTONE — The Gladstone Ski Hill is gearing up for another winter season of skiing, snowboarding and tubing.

The ski hill, located in the John and Melissa Besse Sports Park at 900 N. Bluff Dr. off M-35, opens Dec. 21.

“We open up with our holiday hours — so for the whole time the kids are off on school break we are open every day, usually from 1 to 8 p.m.,” said Nicole Sanderson, Gladstone parks and recreation director. “Some of the days are a little bit different with New Years and Christmas — but those hours will be posted on the city’s website and the Facebook page for the ski hill.”

The after school program the ski hill offers will start Monday, Jan. 7. The schools involved in the program are Rapid River, Holy Name and Gladstone. Sanderson said this year plans are to try to include Escanaba students in the program as well.

“We’ve gotten a few requests — which is good because we have never had Esky people really participate,” she said. “We have a lot of Holy Name kids that do it, but we don’t have a whole lot of Escanaba people, so that would be really nice.”

The after school program is offered Monday, Thursday and Friday during the week and consists of kids getting bused after school to the ski hill through the Gladstone busing system or Delta Area Transit Authority (DATA) buses. From the time the students that participate in the program arrive to 4 p.m., they are offered healthy snacks and tutoring services. After 4 p.m. the hill opens.

Students that have their own winter sports equipment can bring it to the hill. If students are new to the winter sports, lessons and equipment are available. There is a fee to participate in the program and to use the ski hill facility.

Sanderson said students should keep their daily passes if they really enjoy the experience because if they bring back the passes the cost of those passes can be taken off the price of a yearly pass

Sanderson said the ski hill will be offering a new program this year featuring snowshoeing. She said it will be included in the after school program and information will be on the website when everything is finalized.

The weekend hours for the ski hill are noon to 6 p.m.

The cross country ski trail is also groomed and the disc golf course at the sports park will be open all year.

“It’s nice that Gladstone has so many things that are relatively inexpensive or free,” Sanderson said. “Our ice rink, our disc golf course, our cross country ski trail are free — we maintain those. And then our ski hill is relatively inexpensive, so there is a lot to do in the winter.”

She explained the budget to run the ski hill is around $70,000 and budgeted expenses to run the ski are around $79,000, so the cost to run the ski hill is around $9,000. Sanderson explained the goal is to break even every year and try to adjust the budget accordingly. Last year, the ski hill ended up actually costing around $13,000 to run.

Sanderson said the new snowmaking system at the ski hill is helping the ski hill getting closer to its goal.

“We are able to offer a consistent product with our snow,” she said. “What used to take us three weeks to cover the hill with our old snowmaking system we can do in about five days now.”

Sanderson said she hoping for a good year.

“We really appreciate the fact that we are able to teach so many kids how to ski and snowboard,” she said. “To be able to get out in the winter and do a sport that allows for exercise, socialization and skill building.”