Cold weather means ski season is underway at Snow Trails, other resorts

Mike Tonkovich stood at the foot of the hill with a smile and holding his cell phone up in the air to capture the moment as his 12-year-old son Mikey hurtled down the snowy slope on his snowboard.

As the boy skillfully made his way down the descent to Snow trails ski resort near Mansfield, Tonkovich laughed and gave him an approving nudge.

“He loves it,” said Tonkovich, 42.

Tonkovich said he and his homeschooled son spend most of the year traveling for boys’ BMX competitions. But during the off-season in winter, there’s nowhere Mikey would rather be, his father said, than on the slopes.

The Tonkovichs, who live in Akron, bought a season pass for Mikey this year at the Snow Trails ski resort after the boy took up snowboarding as a hobby last year. The resort became an almost weekly excursion for Mikey, who was among the hundreds of people hitting the slopes on Sunday morning.

The onset of cold weather last week means the ski season is well underway at resorts in Ohio. Mad river mountain in Zanesfield, southeast of Bellefontaine, owned by Vail Resorts, opened on Friday.

Snow Trails, located 62 miles northeast of Columbus off Interstate 71, opened on December 17 and typically ends its season in mid-March, said Nate Wolleson, the resort’s marketing director. In its 61st season, the private resort has 19 trails, a tube park, five snow parks with jumps and rails for skiers and boarders to perform tricks, and a 9,000 square foot rental center.

Children's ski day camp friends Reese Nelson, 5, Riley Cahill-Kern, 4, and Lilly Schuerger, 8, hold hands as they cross a ski slope.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, skiing has boomed in popularity as people search for safe outdoor activities to undertake.

For subscribers: Ohio ski resorts see increased interest in sport but take precautions amid COVID-19

Wolleson said Snow Trails saw a spike in bookings last season and interest has yet to wane.

“It was a lot busier because everyone was looking for outdoor recreation,” Wolleson said. “We’ve had so many incredibly excited people to come out here – they’re just happy.”

The resort’s seasonal club memberships for groups as well as its individual season memberships sold out for the first time this season, Wolleson said. And online reservations – since last season, the only way for people without a season pass to get a lift ticket – are filling days in advance, he added.

To accommodate more guests, Snow Trails added heaters to its outdoor patio space last year and builtan additional lodge this season that has yet to open, Wolleson said.

Married couple Josh and Rebecca Hefner made their first trip to the resort on Sunday from their home in Mentor, northeast Ohio. Josh, who like his wife has not skied for 20 years, said he has been trying to convince her to return to the hobby for a few years.

Skiers put on their skis from outside the main Snow Trails lodge in Mansfield, Ohio on Sunday January 9, 2022.

Rebecca Hefner, however, had to get rid of the rust in a training area with shallow hills before planning to hit the slopes.

“She’s trying to get comfortable in her boots so we’ll see if we get off the rabbit slope,” Josh Hefner, 38, said with a laugh. “But no matter what, if I’m outside I’m a happy camper.”

Guests can relax in the main Snow Trails Lodge.

Future event

Will be tube for food

When: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday

Or: Snow Trails, 3100 Possum Run Road, Mansfield

The description: Snow Trails will donate $ 5 off each discounted $ 23 two-hour tube ticket to the tube park in Catalyst Life Services. Each guest is also invited to donate a non-perishable food item that will be collected at the tube park ticket office.

Eric Lagatta is a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch covering public safety, breaking news and social justice issues. Contact him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @EricLagatta

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