By Anna Michael and Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LAWRENCEBURG - The snow forecast for Friday night and weekend low temperatures in the 20s are music to the ears at Perfect North Slopes.
Most years, Perfect North skiing begins around Dec. 10-12. But the weather's been so warm over the past weeks that Greater Cincinnati's only ski area hasn't been able to get out its 150 snow guns to begin laying down fluffy white on those slopes.
And before skiers can whiz down a snow-laden hill, three seasons of preparation are necessary.
Thirty full-time Perfect North Slopes employees having been working year round to ensure the snow guns fire properly; the 17 runs and beginner and tubing areas are up to par, and the improvement projects for beginner skiers are complete.
Then comes the snow.
This year, Perfect North added 20 new snow guns, for a total of 150 guns pumping about 8,000 to 10,000 gallons of water a minute. But these guns can only make snow if the weather is right.
Ideal conditions for producing man-made snow include a dry atmosphere with consistent temperatures in the low 20s or high teens, according to Chip Perfect, co-owner and general manager of Perfect North.
Laying snow, Perfect said, is a process that doesn't really need a natural snowfall. As long as there are three or four nights in a row when the temperature gets down into the low 20s so that snow can be made, stockpiled and groomed, there is a good chance the slopes will open, Perfect said.
"The first extended cold snap - that's when we usually go full blast," Perfect said. "It takes about eight to 10 guys on the snowmaking crew who work all night."
Meanwhile, skiers like 19-year-old JoAnn Schroder of Covington wait eagerly for their first downhill trip.
"I can hardly wait," said Schroder, a junior at Mount St. Joseph College. She learned skiing about six years ago from her mother, Carol Lander, a part-time ski instructor at Perfect North.
Schroder, who added snow-boarding to her snow skills last year, has only one worry - that Perfect North will open while she is stuck at school taking final exams. "It would be just my luck," Schroder said.
Her mother helps run Covington Latin High School's ski club - a group with about 80 members, nearly half the 200-student school.
Like her daughter, Lander is eager for opening day at Perfect North: "It will be great to get out there on the slopes again.''
Perfect North web cams and information: www.perfectnorth.com
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