ANDALUSIA, Ill. — It’s almost time to play in the snow.
That’s what Snowstar operators are saying as the weather turns colder, and many people are starting to think about winter sports and winter fun.
“Everything is in place to have a big year,” said Doug Harper, who, along with his wife Jennifer, are the new owners of Snowstar. “The only thing I can’t control is the weather.”
Snowstar has a projected opening date of Sunday, Dec. 26, depending on the weather. One of the company’s big goals is to be open before Christmas break in order to get the scores of people, who will be on break from school or work, to visit Snowstar, said Derek Workman, operations manager.
Snowstar’s leadership predicts this will be a busy season because of the many changes and improvements made to the business.
Among some of the changes are:
- Updated lift decks and reopening of lift No. 2 (which has been closed for several years.)
- New ticket window shed and snack trailer.
- Expanded warming hut.
- New lighting and signage throughout the park.
- More security cameras.
“We appreciate our guests so much, (we now have) a drive-up ticket shed and pre-sold tickets and we will even pick up the guests in the parking lot,” Mr. Harper said.
Many of the improvements are aimed at helping customers better enjoy the Snowstar experience. Other changes were made because they were needed. Mr. Workman said many maintenance projects had been neglected for years. A couple of years ago, the place was overgrown with weeds and falling apart.
“The first time Doug and I pulled in here for a meeting, the place was so overgrown. There was a car in the parking lot you couldn’t even see,” Mr. Workman recalled. “My heart was broken.”
Mr. Harper said a sizable investment and a lot of hard work have kept Snowstar open for business and many people on the job.
“We saved more than 180 jobs last year, which is huge, considering everything negative going on in the world during that time,” Mr. Harper said in a news release.
He would not comment on the amount spent on improvements and updates, but said the number is “large.”
This actually marks the second season the Harpers have been involved in running Snowstar. Last year, they managed the park during the first pandemic year. And while most businesses endured a tough year, 2020 was a busy time for Snowstar. “It was the best year in 40 years (for Snowstar),” Mr. Harper added.
“At one point, there was a (ticket) line running outside the office, almost to the road,” Mr. Workman said. “We couldn’t even pick up the phone to dial out (because the phones were always ringing). We were that busy.”
Part of the attraction last year, Mr. Workman said was many people simply wanted to get out of the house and get active.
While the Harpers took over management of Snowstar last year, they have been familiar with the activity park for many years.
“One of our first dates was here at Snowstar, and we drove up from where we were living in Peoria at the time,” Mr. Harper said. “The park has been a big part of our relationship with our family since the very beginning, and we want it to be part of yours too.”
As this winter’s seasonal activities near, Mr. Workman has this tip for customers: Make your reservations early. Many people are already getting into the winter sports mood and making reservations.
Some of the Snowstar signature features include: 15 ski and snowboard trails; 11 snow tubing lanes; night skiing and tubing; disc golf; 28-acre terrain park; gear rental; and a state-of-the-art tune shop.
And if you think these are activities just for young people, you are wrong.
“I’ve seen 70- and 80-year-olds on the tubing hill and having the times of their lives,” Mr. Harper said in a release. “But you’ll want to reserve your spot in advance because the spots fill up fast. Last year we had it booked for two weeks in advance.”
Not a winter sports fan? Snowstar offers activities for warmer weather fans including zipline tours, champion-level disc golf and paintball.
Mr. Workman said the park doesn’t like to go by the name “Snowstar Winter Park” these days because the facility offers year-round activities for people. He added that Snowstar’s new logo tries to point out that four-season concept with images of a snowflake, sun and tree leaves.
“This is our passion. We believe in our community and want to invest in it and see it thrive,” Mr. Harper said.
Snowstar is located at 9500 126th St. W., Andalusia. The phone number is (309) 798-2673. Snowstar now is accepting online reservations. For more information and to make a reservation, visit www.skisnowstar.com.