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Ski season off to flying start

Heavy snows, rail jam set Mad River Mountain up for good season

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ABOVE: A finalist in the 14-17 age group competes Saturday in the ninth annual Louie Vito Rail Jam at Mad River Mountain. FRONT PAGE PHOTO: Mike Bittner of Dayton and his 4-year-old son Nathan make their way toward a crowded ski lift line. (EXAMINER PHOTOS | REUBEN MEES)

What has amounted to nearly two feet of snow in the first 10 days of winter along with a successful Louie Vito Rail Jam charity event have set Mad River Mountain off to a good start this season.

“It’s been a great start,” resort general manager Greg Fisher said as an estimated crowd of 3,000 skiers and snowboarders converged on the slopes.

“When we decided to open on the 22nd, we had planned to open with two trails, but we had a brilliant day of snowmaking and were able to get seven open. Then Mother Nature blessed us with Dec. 26,” he said referring to the snowstorm Wednesday that dumped up to a foot of snow on parts of Logan County.

“The next day, we were 100 percent open.”

And guests Saturday were treated to yet another snowy day as several more inches fell overnight Friday and throughout the day Saturday.

Compared to the rain that put a damper on the 2011 Louie Vito Rail Jam, Saturday’s snow helped make the day much more fun for participants than last year, the local professional snowboarder and Olympian said in between trips down the trails with his friends.

“I’m really stoked,” Louie Vito said. “It’s a great setup and we’ve had a lot of donations and it’s dumping snow on us. It couldn’t be any better.

“It’s the complete opposite of the weather last year when it was raining. It was successful last year, but snow makes it a lot more fun.”

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Paul Gelvezon of Galena shows his 4-year-old son Calum the basics of snowboarding Saturday at Mad River Mountain. (EXAMINER PHOTO | REUBEN MEES)

The event, organized by Louie’s parents Lou and Judy Vito of Bellefontaine, was expected to generate about $12,000 for the St. Vincent DePaul Society and enough donated food items to feed 12 families for six months, Lou Vito said.

They also gave away nearly $30,000 in prizes, including Dre Beats headsets, Mad River Mountain packages and a grand prize expense paid trip to Wendell’s Camp in Oregon.

Mr. Fisher said the success of the first week of operation and Saturday’s event was due entirely to a a versatile staff that got itself prepared in short order.

“I can’t offer enough kudos to my staff,” he said. “They didn’t know what to expect going in, but they’ve really done a good job training the employees on the fly.

“We’ve had some challenges here and there, but overall it’s been fantastic,” the resort manager said, noting they still have some work to do plowing and organizing the parking area.

The earlier start to the season was a welcome event for Bellefontaine’s Darrin Meadows who has been skiing and snowboarding locally for more than 30 years.

“I wish it would have snowed more last year, but it looks like we’re off to a good start,” he said.

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One of the adult riders rides a rail during the competition. (EXAMINER PHOTO | REUBEN MEES)

“Me and my son, we get our membership worth out of it,” Mr. Meadows said, waving his first lift ticket of the season. “By the end of the season this will be 2 1/2  inches thick. This is our winter home.”

Mad River Mountain will be open today through 3 a.m. Tuesday before resuming regular weekday hours of 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday through Thursday, Mr. Fisher said.

Friday and Saturday hours are 10 a.m. to 3 a.m.

The Tubing Park has also opened and will be available to families each Thursday from 5 to 9:30 p.m.; Friday, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

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