An Olympic halfpipe in the Midwest, or how about the U.S. Snowboard Team pays a visit to a Heartland resort?
Yes. It's all true, and it's a gamble that is paying off for the Otsego Club and Resort in Gaylord, Mich.
They decided to invest in an Olympic-size halfpipe and ramp up their terrain park several years ago. They had several international snowboard teams stop last season to do some training on the way to Vancouver for the Olympics, which resulted in several news articles including The New York Times.
Recently, several U.S. Snowboard Team members, including current Dew Tour halfpipe leader Louie Vito; 19-year-old Kelly Marren, who placed second last season's halfpipe competition; Gretchen Bailer, silver medal winner in the 2006 Olympics and X Games gold winner; and Greg Bretz, who finished in the top five on multiple Grand Prix, X Games, and World Cup stops last season visited the area.
Other top riders included Ellery Hollingsworth, Kaitlyn Farrington, JJ Thomas, Zack Black, Matt Ladley, and Steve Fisher.
"I'll admit I was a little dubious when told we were stopping in Michigan on the way to Killington for the next Dew Tour stop. But, it's been eye opening," Marren told OnTheSnow. "This is a top notch facility, and Midwest people are really friendly.
"What I like is the repetition you get here. Out West we might go 15 or 20 minutes between halfpipe runs by the time you access a lift and get back up in position. Here the chairlift is next to the halfpipe, and you can turn it around in just a few minutes. It's a big advantage for halfpipe training."
Steve Fisher, 28, who finished in a tie with Vito for overall Grand Prix tour champion in 2009 as well as a third place in World Cup competitions, was also pleasantly surprised.
"I grew up in the Hyland Hills area of the Twin Cities, but moved out West after high school to compete. I had no idea they had a facility like this in the Midwest," he confessed to OnTheSnow."It's great, and what a boon to Heartland snowboarders that want to compete in the big leagues."
The O Park is arguably one of the best mid-continent, and the 22-foot halfpipe is the only one. It's one of only a handful across the United States, and one of only two east of the Rocky Mountains. Teams from New Zealand and Australia are also returning to train this winter. The Club was the site for a stop on the TransWorld TransAm Tour a couple of weekends ago.
"It's exciting to watch how the O Park has become a training ground for world-class athletes, but also for elite riders closer to home and those that want to experience a similar environment," said Kris Klay, GM of the Midwest's only private ski club. "We were losing family members when the kids were becoming teenagers before we added the new facilities. They would opt to go to resorts with more terrain park offerings.
"The O Park has changed all that. Many who had opted out are returning now. It's created a lot of interest and led to an increase in membership."
The all mountain terrain park offers, in addition to the Monster Pipe, over 50 rail features and jumps for all skill levels.
The private club is open to the public on Thursday, 4 to 9 p.m., and Friday, noon to 9 p.m. Lift tickets from 4 p.m. are $25 for adults, $20 for teens (13-17), $15 for juniors (9-12), and always $5 for eight and under. From noon on Friday lift tickets are respectively $60, $50 and $40.
Families who want to spend a weekend at the private club can check out their Test Drive Weekend Package, available to the public based on availability, start from $595 for a family of four. It includes two nights' lodging, two adult lift tickets, two kids' lift tickets, and breakfast daily in the Duck Blind Grille. Lift tickets are good for Friday arrival through the weekend.
They are offering for the first time a midweek ski package starting from $89 per person based on double occupancy. The package includes lodging, breakfast, and an all-day lift ticket.
The resort has an Old World charm that you won't find anywhere else in the Heartland. Combine that with the modern O Park and it's truly a unique setting; not your typical ski resort. They are in the process of trying to secure a date on the Grand Prix snowboard calendar for next season.
More information lodging packages
Check out this video of action at the Otsego Club.