Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Skiing in Northeast Ohio

Photos by OHventures

1146 West Highland Road
Northfield, OH
(330) 467-2242

If you're used to skiing in the snowcapped mountaintops of the great Rockies or lush Sierras out West, unfortunately, you very well may be gravely disappointed with the skiing options at your fingertips in Ohio. The hills in Ohio are miniscule bunny hills compared to the astronomical ascents in places like Colorado, California, and Utah. However, if you have never partaken in the wintry sports of skiing and snowboarding, if you are merely a novice, or if you simply need a mini thrill before zooming down real mountains, there are several ski resorts in the state that will do you just fine.

One of the most notable ski complexes in the state is the Boston Mills & Brandywine Ski Resort (AKA BMBW), located in Summit County in the towns of Northfield and Sagamore Hills. There are two separate polar parks for you to choose from and explore (Boston Mills, and Brandywine, naturally). Each of these parks costs about $41 for admission ($36 for children), although cheaper deals exist depending on the time of day or the day of the week.

You are free to bring your own equipment, but if you are like me, you have to rent. Both snowboard and ski rentals cost approximately $30 ($25 for children). If you are truly new to the game, you may get a bit overwhelmed at first with the entire process, but there are plenty of courtesy staffers on hand that will make sure you get just the right size of blades according to your weight, height, and skill level. The larger of the two resorts is Brandywine (much MUCH better than its counterpart...my advice is to skip Boston Mills altogether if you want my honest opinion).

Once you're all bundled up and strapped in, the real fun begins. If you are worried about the lack of snow, they do have snow machines that create some fake white stuff that, while not nearly as good as the real stuff, gets the job done and is better than nothing. You can compare the above photos (taken on the same day) to see how much fake snow exists as the "base" for winter sports enthusiasts on mild days.

BMBW is a fine getaway that conjures up great memories for me, as I began coming here each and every Thursday evening as part of my high school's official Ski Club. We hopped on an old yellow bus and drove an hour and a half to what at the time seemed to be enormous eskers. It is then that I learned everything I really needed to know about skiing - from how to walk (more like waddle) in the skis, how and when to utilize the poles, and of course how to zip down the slopes with the greatest of ease.

I was not very graceful in my first weeks of skiing back in my early teens. In fact, I admit it took me a little longer to advance in my ski lessons than most of my peers. But with the right amount of lessons offered by the ski instructors at BMBW, I was mastering the pizza wedge and zigzagging downward in no time. I even took my chances on the mighty moguls and monstrous trick ramps. I was able to fly down any hill, which are all labled with either a green circle (beginner), blue square (intermediate), or the treacherous black diamond. Funnily enough, the black diamonds in Ohio are more than likely equivalent to the bunny slopes in the aforementioned Rockies and Sierras, but they are all fun and pretty challenging for the average Buckeye.

The hardest part of all of the skiing, however, isn't even the hills, but rather the dreaded ski lifts! Unfortunately, it is probably accurate to say that you are on the ski lifts more than you are on the ski slopes while at Ohio resorts, but that's all right, because they offer a whole different kind of thrill. The lifts have no bars to hold you in, so you have to either hold onto the sides or just brave it without holding on at all. It's a fun sight to see skiiers scrambling to get into position as the lifts come swinging by, and it is even more fun to watch as others prepare to dismount the lift at the tops of the hills. It's not uncommon to trip over one another or topple down the ramp, but it all makes for a good laugh whenever that happens.

Boston Mills & Brandywine offer some pretty good events and specials, including private lessons, birthday parties, college ID nights, midnight madness, bootcamps to learn tricks, a series of scary and challenging jumps and rails (known as "The Park"), season passes, racing events, and even snow tubing for those a bit weary of the idea of skiing or snowboarding (the snow tubing area is known as "Polar Blast"). The lodges sell good eats, hot cocoa, and, yes, ice cold beers! It's great to drink a beer by the fireplace during a mid-day break.

There are a couple of steep hills (the highest hill is a 240 foot vertical drop), including "Champagne" at Brandywine and "North Bowl" at Boston Mills. These will give you a great deal of speed, and an awesome workout for your core and legs (especially your calves, which you use often to maneuver and stop). You will more than likely find yourself a bit sore after a day of skiing, even if it is at the smaller Ohio resorts. There is of course a small degree of danger involved in skiing, but nothing to be too afraid of.

Skiing is something everyone should try once in their life (and snowboarding, too). If you get on the slopes, you'll find everyone from teenagers, to college kids, and even senior citizens and handicapped folks. And if you need more inspiration, just remember that if my 8 year old niece can do it, you can too!

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