With a sunny sky to their backs and a crisp breeze in their faces, hundreds of skiers, snowboarders and tubers slid down the slopes Saturday at Snow Trails.
"It's a good day," the resort's marketing manager, Nate Wolleson, said as families bundled up and they waited in line for their ride to the top of Mount Mansfield.
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It's been a good year, too. Last season, the resort had a record number of visitors, a trend that has continued since this season's opening on Dec. 17.
"Season passes sold out this year," Wolleson said, "for the first time, ever."
Snow Trails has been a popular attraction for decades, but the COVID-19 pandemic helped push the venue's attendance to new heights.
"Outdoor recreation is off the charts," Wolleson said. "Kayaks are sold out, mountain bikes are sold out, and now skis are sold out."
'From beginner slopes to advanced'
The resort has been in operation since 1961, sporting six chairlifts and 19 trails.
It was Ohio's first commercial ski resort, and is now the only one in the state that is family owned.
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That's fitting, considering how family oriented the resort is today. It's common for people with decades of experience to take their young grandchildren to Snow Trails to get their first taste of skiing.
"You can go from beginner slopes to advanced slopes here," Wolleson said. "It allows people the freedom to get what they want out of an amazing canvas like this."
'Anybody can tube'
People don't even have to ski or snowboard to appreciate the resort — seven lanes designed for tubing are open every weekend.
The tubing area has a conveyor carpet lift and tubing lodge that offers an outdoor fire pit, snack bar and restrooms.
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"Anybody can tube," Wolleson said. "There's no experience necessary."
Many people who tube become interested in skiing and snowboarding, and Snow Trails makes it easy for them to transition. Lessons are available for newbies of all ages.
Lessons for all ages and skill levels
An entire section of the resort is dedicated to education, and is conveniently located next to the locker and equipment area by the park's entrance.
The first slope is really nothing more than a small pile of snow, not much different from what people might find in their own lawns each winter. A big difference, though, is professional skiers are on hand to offer guidance along the way.
"We really want to take the intimidation out of trying something new," Wolleson said.
A series of slopes slowly add to the experience, some with height and some with bumps and turns.
"You can practice the different movements it takes to ski without going up a chairlift right away," Wolleson said.
There are group lessons available for children as young as 4, or private lessons for skiers of any age or skill level.
From the X Games to the Olympics
The more adventurous and athletic of visitors will find the terrain parks and racing leagues of particular interest.
"Kids watch the X Games and then they watch the Olympics," Wolleson said. "This year is an Olympic year."
The Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing from Feb. 4 to Feb. 20.
The chance to become experienced on both awaits at Snow Trails.
The resort's different terrain parks include both hard and soft features, including jumps rails and halfpipes.
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"There are wide boxes you can slide across," Wolleson said. "You would see those in the X Games."
Others are more interested in speed than acrobatics.
"We have a great racing program," Wolleson said. "They run for points and then they do a picnic at the end of the season and that's where they give out their awards."
He likes to point out that even though the slopes in Richland County aren't quite as long as those out west, they can offer similar turns and nearly as many challenges to the most daring of skiers.
"You can train to become an Olympic athlete on the slopes right here in Mansfield, Ohio," Wolleson said. "And we have the programs to back it up."
This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Snow Trails: Beginners to Olympians can enjoy the slopes in Mansfield