Ice rinks and ski slopes adapt to fluctuating weather

NOW: Ice rinks and ski slopes adapt to fluctuating weather

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- ‘Normal Indiana weather’: defined by blizzard conditions followed by 50-degree highs all in a matter of days.

That forecast is not ideal for your favorite winter activities; the ski slopes at Swiss Valley in Jones, Michigan are strips of white manmade snow surrounded by grass.

“The conditions started out as some of the best opening conditions we’ve had in years,” says Michael Panich, Assistant General Manager at Swiss Valley. “We had three days of amazing crowds, great snow, good cold weather, which turned into spring-like temperatures after the first three days.”

For local ice-skating rinks like Howard Park in South Bend or Ironworks in Mishawaka, it’s all about controlling what’s happening under the ice to prevent the top layer from melting.

“Below, underground, there’s a lot of things going on that help keep the ice in tip-top shape,” says the Manager of Howard Park, Danica Kulemeka.

“We have two compressors that run the entire ice rink and there’s miles of brine lines underneath it,” explains Phil Blasko, Superintendent for Mishawaka Parks and Recreation. “We have to make sure we keep that slab of concrete low enough to where that the sun hits it or the wind hits it, it doesn’t melt the top layers.”

The skiing and snowboarding slopes at Swiss Valley rely on snow and were hit the hardest by the temperature fluctuation, having to close entirely for the last three days.

“Clearly, the warm weather does eventually take its toll on the snow,” Panich says.

However, that’s not stopping them from making their own snow!

“We need cold temperatures,” explains Panich. “The magic number’s kind of like a 28 degree with low humidity, then that’s when we can start making snow.”

If you’re bummed that your ice-skating plans may be ruined due to warmer temperatures, don’t count it out too fast.

“It was almost 60 degrees and we’re still able to hold up ice,” says Blasko.

“Unless we have several days of sunny weather and 60-degree temps, that might affect us, but other than that we’re good,” assures Kulemeka.

If it’s cold enough to make snow, you’re good to go skiing and snowboarding!

“Even though it’s brown in town, we have snow up here in Swiss Valley,” says Panich.

Swiss Valley opens back up on Friday at noon, and Ironworks only cancelled sessions for one day due to temperatures.

Venue websites and registration:

Swiss Valley


Howard Park 

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