By Patrick Winderl
The prayers of winter warriors waiting to hit the slopes will be answered this week with the opening of the Bear Paw Ski Bowl and the Screaming Beaver Tube Run.
The snow gods blessed the Chippewa Cree Recreation Area with 3 feet of snow last weekend, allowing the area to open to downhillers.
The much anticipated opening of the ski hill will occur Sunday, while Thursday marks the grand opening of the new tube run.
Dave Martens, who manages the ski bowl, said snowpack at the base of the mountain is between 12 and 20 inches.
"The snow we got last weekend put us in business," he said. "We're a one-dump area. All we need is one good snow to get us on the mountain."
Ski season will kick off Sunday morning and continue through Monday afternoon because of the Monday Presidents Day holiday, Martens said. Ski conditions consist of powder, packed powder and machine-groomed snow, he added.
The lift will operate from 10:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. both days. Ticket prices remain unchanged from last year, costing $15 for adults, $12 for children, and 8 and under skiing free.
The Screaming Beaver Tube Run will get a jump-start on the Presidents Day weekend by opening Thursday. The Screaming Beaver is a new run that launches the young and the young at heart down a steep hill atop inner tubes.
Located just east of the ski bowl, the ride drops tubers more than 100 vertical feet in less than seven seconds.
"You're moving pretty quick, that's for sure," said Jason Belcourt, who supervised the construction of the Screaming Beaver. Belcourt works for the Parks and Recreation Department of the Chippewa Cree Tribe, which was responsible for building the new run.
A lift pulls riders up the hill. They can choose to get off at the halfway mark or go all the way to the top, Belcourt said.
"We have a midway point for younger kids that isn't quite as scary as going all the way to the top," he said.
The Screaming Beaver was originally scheduled to open in mid-December, but lack of snow and construction delays did not allow it, Belcourt said.
"It is very exciting to have the lift up and running. We are hoping for a good turnout tomorrow."
The Screaming Beaver will open at 10 a.m. and close about 3:30 p.m., Belcourt said. The run has 3 feet of snow. Lift passes cost $9 apiece, and families of five or more can ride for $6 a person.