Outdoor winter sports off to a slow start | Local

With Christmas in the rear-view mirror and the start of a new year, the full force of a Wyoming winter still lies ahead. But the cold, windy weather the state has become know for has been taking its time arriving. That’s been a mixed bag for those who enjoy winter […]

With Christmas in the rear-view mirror and the start of a new year, the full force of a Wyoming winter still lies ahead. But the cold, windy weather the state has become know for has been taking its time arriving.

That’s been a mixed bag for those who enjoy winter outdoor recreation.

Popular destinations like Terry Peak Ski Area near Rapid City, South Dakota, and Bear Lodge Resort in the Big Horn Mountains have been adapting to a mild winter going into the new year. On top of a lack of snow, both resorts have been forced to adapt to ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions.

The Big Horn Mountains have received 82{066dbc63777e5ed549f406789d72fdeebd77a32711d57f7b38ff2b35c4ba2a42} of its average snowfall as of this week, said National Weather Service meteorologist Melissa Smith. The western part of the region has seen significantly more snowfall, with the eastern side of the basin only at 50{066dbc63777e5ed549f406789d72fdeebd77a32711d57f7b38ff2b35c4ba2a42} of its average.

Farther east, Terry Peak is slightly below average at 75-85{066dbc63777e5ed549f406789d72fdeebd77a32711d57f7b38ff2b35c4ba2a42} of its normal snowfall, Smith said. While less snow has had an impact on outdoor pursuits, the dip isn’t too alarming.

“It is below average, but I’ve been here for about 15 or 20 years now and it’s definitely not the worst year,” Smith said. “It hasn’t been as good as the last two years, I will say that. Those were really nice years for recreational activity.”

A very dry fall and severe drought in the Big Horns may be playing a part in the snowfall pattern now, Smith said.

Bear Lodge Resort

At Bear Lodge Resort, owner Rick Young didn’t start grooming the trails until Dec. 21 because of a lack of snow. On Monday, he was finally up to having 90{066dbc63777e5ed549f406789d72fdeebd77a32711d57f7b38ff2b35c4ba2a42} of the trails at the resort groomed.

“The lack of snow definitely doesn’t help,” Young said. “We finally have enough snow where they can ride trails, but two weeks ago we weren’t even grooming yet.”

Young estimates his business is about 70{066dbc63777e5ed549f406789d72fdeebd77a32711d57f7b38ff2b35c4ba2a42} to 80{066dbc63777e5ed549f406789d72fdeebd77a32711d57f7b38ff2b35c4ba2a42} of what he does in a typical season before the New Year. The resort had six groups cancel over the holidays.

“A lot of people are going to Colorado because there’s better snow in the Steamboat area,” Young said.

Snow is up to 12 to 16 inches at the lodge and hotel area of the resort, Young said.

“If we could get a good foot or two of snow, we’d be in great shape,” Young said. “We’ve been measuring in inches. We should be measuring in feet.”

Already dealing with a lack of snow, Young said another large impact on his business was having to close the resort’s bar at 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve to comply with state health orders.

“That will be the first time in our history that we’ve ever had to do that,” Young said.

Terry Peak

About 15 miles from Rapid City, Terry Peak has had to adapt because of a lack of snowfall in the area. The ski resort didn’t open full-time (seven days a week) until Dec. 16, said resort spokeswoman Linda Derosier.

“Due to the lack of snow and cold weather we have only three runs open. We have two chairlifts and the snow carpet operating,” the resort posted on its Facebook page. “We are currently making snow on Ben Hur and Kussy. We hope to be able to open more terrain as soon possible.”

The ski resort has 29 runs on the property, and with only three open, business has been impacted. While Derosier declined to comment on the specifics of the lost business, she said Terry Peak also lost out on a lot of its Christmas season by having such a late start to the season.

“We were a little bit behind in our opening, and it’s been a little bit of a struggle through the Christmas holidays with the lack of terrain,” Derosier said. “We’ve had 21 inches (of snow) since Nov. 1 and we are making snow whenever we can.”

Because of the limited terrain at the resort, discounted lift tickets are being sold, Derosier said. Adult tickets (ages 13-69) are $44 while junior tickets (ages 6-12) are $34.

In addition to losing business because of the limited winter weather, Terry Peak also was forced to close early last season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been a tough year for everybody, and outdoor recreational sporting businesses are no different.

Derosier said she sees a light at the end of the tunnel.

“We’ll get the snow and the winter will come,” Derosier said. “We have missed our best time of year, which is our Christmas season, but we still have a good three months left of it if we can get some good winter coming.

“We can still have a great ski season and we can still offer skiers and snowboarders great terrain. We’re hoping that things will turn around here and we get some good snow.”

Antelope Butte

About an hour west of Sheridan, the Antelope Butte Mountain Recreation Area is also beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Antelope Butte opened Dec. 18.

On Wednesday, the resort reported 14 to 16 inches of snow at its base with 4 to 6 inches new this week.

Lifts are open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, according to the resort’s website. Full-day lift passes are $40 for adults, $32 for students, college students, seniors and military members and $20 for youth (ages 6-12). Kids 5 and younger are free.

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