Minnesotans have a strained relationship with the cold. We love to lord our hardiness over out-of-staters, but whine when it’s time to let the car run for 10 minutes before going anywhere. Some of us even say we “hate” winter.
You haters forget that winter frees us from friction. When the leaves die and the earth turns white, humans can glide through space with the kind of grace typically reserved for better lifeforms thanks to skis, snowboards, and ice skates.
Just like every other kind of good time out there, though, wintery fun is built upon a foundation of inconvenience, discomfort, and toil. Who bears the brunt of that inconvenience at ski hills? Snow makers. They’re out there risking life and skin in the brumal climate, wrestling with spurting water hoses and giant fans, all so we can go have a laugh.
Their toil paid off last week. After not opening last season, Coffee Mill is back. The hill’s snow guns, which sat dormant for almost a year, started up on Tuesday of last week. By Sunday, the hill’s most versatile run, Run of the Mill, was fully open, complete with rad knobs to jump off. That’s a lot of work for a skeleton crew of dedicated snow makers, and a lot of water to make that much snow.
There’s no need to feel guilty about the water, though. At Coffee Mill, melted snow returns to the ground and then the river.
According to Henry Pichner, a Coffee Mill snowmaker, making snow requires temperatures 23 degrees or colder with low humidity (the lower the humidity, the faster the water freezes). Anything over 23 degrees means the water doesn’t have enough time to freeze into snowflakes before it hits the ground.
Welch Village and Mount Kato had their snow guns blasting last week, too, and are open for business.
John Nelson, area manager at Mount Kato, reports that their front hills are open with the help of six inches of natural snow.
“It was pretty bleak there, for a while, and, all of a sudden, somebody flipped the switch,” he said.
Mount Kato is offering of free lift tickets for riders 12 or younger through Sunday, December 18. That also comes with half price rental gear and group lessons.
Welch’s guns have been going almost nonstop since last Tuesday in preparation for another season of well-rounded fun. Its roster of open runs grows daily. The hill’s live music series has begun and will run throughout the season, from 4-6 p.m. every Saturday; check out their main chalet for free tunes.
It really is a good time to be a skier in Southeastern Minnesota.
Amy Schaffer, marketing manager at Welch Village, agrees. “The vibe this year just feels so good and so different than last year. I think we were closed this week last year.”
20461 MN-66, Mankato
26685 County 7 Blvd, Welch
99 Coulee Way, Wabasha