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Snow made to order Missouri ski resorts can't rely on Mother Nature

Sunday, December 18, 2005

(Photo)
Visitors to Hidden Valley ski resort in Wildwood, Mo., ride one of the ski lifts.
(Submitted photo)
WILDWOOD, Mo. -- Today, there's about 55 inches of snow on the ground in Wildwood and people from around the state are strapping on skis in anticipation.

No, you didn't miss an overnight blizzard.

You missed the past 24 years of Hidden Valley, one of Missouri's two ski resorts.

Located southwest of St. Louis about two hours away from Cape Girardeau, Hidden Valley attracts about 2,500 regular season pass holders each season, which runs from about October to March.

Missi Boyd, who works in upper management at Hidden Valley, said she and her husband got the idea to open a ski resort while on a ski trip themselves.

They now have resorts in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.

The trick to it all is manufacturing snow.

"The resort is outside and the snow is man-made," said Boyd. "But it really is snow. It just doesn't snow that often in Missouri, so we make it."

The resorts "make" snow using towered and mobile snow machines that pump more than 3,500 gallons of water per minute into the air to fall as snow.

Special grooming machines contour and pack the snow to make it last.

Boyd said the most popular part of the resort is its two terrain parks, which are similar to skateboard parks with rails and boxes, except they're designed for snowboarders.

"That's definitely the new direction this industry is going," said Boyd.

Hidden Valley has 13 "runs," trails or slopes made for skiing. There's also chair lifts, rope tows and surface lifts. The ski resort is part of a golf course and also features a restaurants and rental shop.

Even with improvements in snow making machines, Boyd said Missouri is as far south as temperatures will allow a ski resort to operate.

"I think the fact that it's a lifetime sport makes skiing so popular," said Boyd. "We have senior citizens over 70 here and we have two- and three-year-olds."

The resort also has a ski team and holds racing events.

"You can come with people of all different ability levels and have a good time," said Boyd. "It's very exciting and thrilling."

cmiller@semissourian.com


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