ONTONAGON, Mich. (WLUC) – Overcast skies and mild weather kicked off the season at the Porcupine Mountains Winter Sports Complex on Friday.

This year marks the first time the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) has taken over the operational management of the complex. Since 2012, it has been operated through a partnership between MDNR and Gogebic Community College.

“The park operated the hill from 1950 to 2003, after which it was privately owned for some time,” said Michael Kank, manager of Porcupine Mountains Park. “Currently, park staff primarily conduct all external operations and oversee the day-to-day management of the hills. They also run kitchens, grills, rentals, and a gift shop.”

Last week’s winter storm also affected the hills, with snow on all 14 runs.

“The snow had a lot of air in it, so it’s a little thinner than I thought it would be, but all the runs are open,” Kank continued. “There were a lot of skiers today. All three parking lots were full and there was a long line at the ticket office.”

According to MDNR, the number of customers is higher than expected, thanks to holiday traffic to UP.

Some of these visitors are far from all over the country.

“I ski here and my family is over there,” said customer Conor McKenzie. “We are here for a family vacation from Texas.”

Some plan to ski with their families.

“I’m going out with my family,” said customer Maia Prete. “And I’m enjoying skiing because it’s my first time this season.”

And some people welcome the New Year and enjoy the hills.

“Me and some friends wanted to take a ski trip in the New Year,” said customer Emma Wilbur. “So we’re here, we’re staying in a hut around here, and we’re going skiing today and tomorrow.”

The complex also hosts the Lantern Snowshoe Walk on weekends beginning in January.

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