By Jordan Ercit
Kitchener Post staff
Bill Creighton was starting to sweat.
Not enough cold weather can do that to a guy who spends his winters praying for sub-zero temperatures and sheets of ski-quality snow.
A blown water line on Christmas Eve didn’t help matters, but Chicopee Ski and Summer Resort still managed to open last Saturday — exactly one year to the day of the 2011 season’s opening — and should be well on its way to dusting off most of its 14 runs by this weekend.
“We usually don’t have two bad years in a row, so I was getting nervous without all the snow,” Creighton, the resort’s executive director, said a week after welcoming his first daughter, Cameron Elizabeth Grace, into the world.
“It’s funny because my brother kept joking that I should name my daughter Snow — because that’s all I was asking for the week before she was born (on Dec. 26).”
Creighton got what he wished for — a slew of negative temperatures from Dec. 19 to 31, perfect for creating artificial snow, which helped the club open seven of its 14 runs by Wednesday.
And by today, Creighton hopes the hill will have two more runs open, including the beginner terrain park for trick-based skiers and snowboarders, plus another two by the week’s end.
That leaves the Sugar Bowl section — serviced by older and less-efficient snowmaking equipment, and hampered by the most sunlight exposure — as the only unknown.
Otherwise, it’s full steam ahead for the 2012-13 season, with Chicopee Demo Day and Snow School programs kicking off on Saturday. Manufacturers like Atomic, Head and K2 will be demonstrating equipment during the day, while group lessons will begin in earnest as well.
By far the biggest change this season will be in the way the club offers some of its learn-to-ski programs.
This is the first season that Chicopee will offer its new 1-2-3 FREE program, which includes a group lesson, one restricted-area prviate lesson, one all-access private lesson and a free lift ticket for to explore the hill on their own once the lessons are done.
The impetus for the change, Creighton said, was that learn-to-ski programs based on a single session only attract one out of 10 people to become regular skiers. They are hoping that four lessons together at a discounted price — $199 compared to $280 at last year’s price for each individual session combined — helps boost retention.
“People don’t necessarily get what skiing is about after that first lesson,” he said. “That second lesson gives them a chance to get some more personal attention.”
Along with the Ski FREE With Me program — which offers Winter Educational Program participants a free lift ticket for their parent or guardian if they come back on their own — the changes are part of refocusing the hill toward becoming a learning facility, Creighton said.
“We love to tell people that (former Canadian Olympic alpine skier) Kelly Vanderbeek got her start here . . . but I also like to say, ‘We’re here until your parents let you take the car to Collingwood,’” he said.
“We’re a great family facility where you can learn to love the sport.”