Spring on the slopes

MARQUETTE – If you’re going through Winter Olympics withdrawal, Marquette Mountain might be the place for you in the next few weeks.

“March is typically the start of our spring skiing season, and March is typically our biggest festival-event time of the year,” said Vern Barber, Marquette Mountain general manager.

And this time of year can’t come quickly enough, assuming it’s reasonably warm, considering the subzero temperatures that have plagued the area recently.

Barber said skier count is down 25 percent since later December because of the extremely cold weather.

“Racers and avid skiers, you’ll see out here,” Barber said. “Unfortunately, they don’t make up a majority of the skier count.”

The hard-core skiers have developed mechanisms for dealing with harsh weather, he noted.

“The avid know how to get past it,” Barber said. “But they’re the avid people.”

It’s the “impulse skiers,” the people who wake up and say, “Let’s go skiing today,” who instead say, “Let’s watch TV today” that tend to avoid the slopes in frigid weather, he said.

However, Barber is hoping for weather in the 30- to 40-degree range in the upcoming weeks.

This weekend, for example, includes the Dan Hornbogen Classic, which has what Barber called a four-race-in-one-day event set for Saturday. That event, he said, includes downhill, super giant slalom, giant slalom and slalom.

Sunday, according to Barber, marks the last “carload” date of the season in which the total number of people in a vehicle get to ski for $60.

Sunday also is the Brodown Showdown, an annual freestyle event that features events such as slopestyle and boarder/ski cross.

“Just like what you see in the Olympics,” Barber said. “It’s just like that.”

The Brodown Showdown brings in the talent.

“It’s kind of like who’s the best snowboarder in the U.P., and who’s the best twin-tipper in the U.P.,” Barber said. (Twin-tipped skis are curved on both ends.)

The following weekend, March 14-16, marks the Spring Carnival, a family-oriented festival that includes events with fun monikers such as Butt Slider and Silly Slalom.

Barber said Hot Dog Day starts Friday at 5 p.m., with free hot dogs available. The events for participants of varying ages take place Saturday and Sunday.

“Adults get involved, but most of this stuff is for kids,” Barber said.

For example, participants in the Butt Slider use garbage bags to head down a 60-foot course, using their feet to steer, Barber said.

The Silly Slalom is just that, involving an obstacle course on the bunny hill with items such as tires and hay bales.

The Firehose Race, Barber said, involves teams of five, dressed in “themes,” using a 50-foot firehose to race down a giant-slalon course, holding onto the hose.

“It’s hilarious,” Barber said, “because the front guy’s going that way, and the back guy’s going that way.”

Physics also play a part in the Firehose Race.

“When we come back around, they’ve got that whip to it,” Barber said. “So, the back people have to be really good.”

People taking part in the Frisbee Giant Slalom ski down a course, putting a Frisbee in a barrel.

And if anything thinks that’s easy, Barber pointed out, “It’s incredibly hard to do at that speed.”

The popular pig roast also is scheduled for Sunday.

“If it’s a warm, sunny day,” Barber said, “we serve 600 people just for the pig roast.”

Of course, the Marquette Mountain slopes still are open on other days, giving people a chance to ski and snowboard. Nicole Alexander of Marquette, for instance, spent part of Tuesday guiding her 3-year-old daughter, Evelyn Grant, up and down a gentle slope.

“Anything that gets us outside is good for me,” Alexander said. “And she likes doing anything her brother (Jack) likes too.”

Visit www.marquettemountain.com for details on upcoming events.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.