If there’s one sport that should enjoy the higher-than-average snowfall the area has seen this winter, it would be skiing.

In past winters, mild weather sometimes made it tough for ski resorts to be open any earlier than January, causing problems with ski teams that wanted to get in preseason work. Most schools’ ski programs have official meets that start in January and end with the state tournament in late February.

Jeff David is the coach of the Okemos ski team and notes that the team’s time improved for training and regular season meets.

The team skis at Mount Brighton, and “compared to years past, there’s no comparison” David said. “We have been blessed with temperature that allows for snow making. [The new owners] have increased their snow production capabilities by five-fold.

“We have had coverage from the first day on with snow…The week after Thanksgiving, we were on the hill. It’s been terrific.

“Our approach is to get as much mileage as we can in terms of our pre-skiing and primarily drill work,” David said. “We started off getting kids comfortable on the snow and going through our battery of drills. Early season, even though there may be coverage, often time resorts don’t want you to plant courses yet for a variety of reasons.

“We have had a chance to get on snow early and train and have drills. It helped our team prepare for our first competition. It gives us a chance to get an early start. It will help kids to get to be where they need to be sooner. Hopefully, they can continue to build their skills. Provided the weather stays the way it is, we’ll have a great opportunity to have our regional and state without any chance for delay. The past couple of years, we’ve struggled by having to throw chemicals on the hills, especially down here in southeastern lower Michigan where we train.”

Terry Avink, Rockford ski coach, concurred that the snow has made it a good ski season so far. “As a team, we generally train more up north than we have this season,” he said. “The large amount of natural snow here at Cannonsburg and Pando has allowed us spend more time on the snow and less time driving to northern resorts. We always have trained in December, however, this season allows us more local training and the option to pretty much do any type of training we choose, whether it’s tall poles, stubbies, or brushes.”

Avink agrees that meets have been highlighted with good quality snow, and it could make for excellent conditions at the late-season meets.

“Our condition at the ‘burg was normally good even in lean snow years due to their snow-making process,” Avink said. “However, with the large amount of natural snow, they are able to groom terrain into the hill as opposed to having to focus on making snow.

“Natural snow also makes us as ski racers feel more excited about our sport and also gets friends and families more involved.”

Clare, coached by Jann Cleary, usually trains and competes at Snow Snake Ski & Golf in Harrison.

“This year we had dry land training for only two days, and then we were able to hit the slopes to concentrate on the techniques of skiing,” Cleary said. “Having this extra time has allowed many of the racers to improve significantly and the more advanced skiers to hone in on their technique. Ski racing is a very precise sport with very little room for error. 

“Snow Snake does an excellent job preparing the race hill for all the race teams in the area, so we have always had enough snow on the hill to practice, but not always the excellent conditions we have had this year. The extra fresh snow has made for wonderful skiing conditions. But, we are not the only ski team that has the advantage of great snow; all teams have had this benefit.”

Clare started practice Nov. 18 for dry land and took off Thanksgiving week.

“Then we were skiing on the hill Friday after Thanksgiving when Snow Snake opened to the public,” Cleary said. “The following week we also skied and conditioned by hiking the hill many times.

“Last year, we were not able to ski until just before Christmas. We have our ski camp up at Schuss Mountain every year, and last year, the first time we all skied was at the first day of camp. This year, all of us had been skiing before camp. This made camp much more beneficial.”

Heritage coach David Corcoran said his team usually trains in the Saginaw area. The additional snow probably doesn’t directly have an impact on his team, he indicated.

“Our first meet doesn’t take place until kids come back from holiday break,” he said. “We can’t practice over break. Now that we’re in season, it’s nice to have great snow to ski on. But overall, there’s been no effect on the Heritage team.”

In fact, additional snow,  which canceled school at Heritage, also canceled ski team practices. 

“Our preparation time was lost due to the overabundance of snow,” Corcoran said.