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Man-made flakes at Wilmot make for hill of a good time

Adam Hirsch 10 from Deerfield holds his has he takes tube ride with Jake Hoodack Caleb Saks Wilmot MountaSki Hill

Adam Hirsch, 10 from Deerfield, holds his hat as he takes a tube ride with Jake Hoodack and Caleb Saks at Wilmot Mountain Ski Hill Saturday. January 12, 2013. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 15, 2013 6:12AM

Race Kelley of Fox Lake had everything going his way as he celebrated his 10th birthday at the Wilmot Mountain Tubing Area on Saturday.

In addition to having the coolest first name possible for the event, he had about 10 of his good friends from Lotus Elementary School in Spring Grove with him, temperatures above freezing and, most importantly, snow.

“This was a good opportunity,” Race said as he and his friends took a break from cascading down the facility’s lengthy snow runs on large inner tubes. “I just heard a lot of laughing. Mostly, it’s awesome.”

“It is so fast, I didn’t think it would be that big of a hill,” said Race’s friend, 8-year-old Trent Zolman of a Fox Lake. “It kind of feels like real snow.”

The snow was man-made, a glaring stretch of white amid a brown landscape. The forecast for real snow later in the weekend only improved prospects for tubers of all ages, who said the runs would get faster as the temperatures dropped Saturday evening.

Race’s father Jeff Kelley said the boys are part of a group that generally share birthday parties together and try to do different things. Tubing presented a unique opportunity for the group. Jeff Kelly said he went down the runs a few times himself.

“It was fun, I liked it,” he said. “You’re really having fun for a little while, then you have to get back up the hill. But they have a conveyor belt, so that’s nice.”

“The kids all enjoy it,” said Russell Sage, who was helping out at the top of the hill because his son Logan also was attending the birthday party for Race. He said the group of kids are in baseball and scouting together and “this is really something different for them.”

Tina Donahue and Jim Buchenberger, a Round Lake area couple who have been dating about four years, also were enjoying the runs early Saturday afternoon for the first time.

“We talked about going sledding and decided we might as well go to a big hill,” Buchenberger said, surveying the landscape from the top of the hill. “It’s cool up here because there is snow but there is no snow all around.”

“And it’s a nice weekend. It’s a good day for it,” Donahue said.

Hadar Danieli of Deerfield said she came with a group of families with children and that they head up to the facility once or twice a year.

“Oh my God, it’s a great activity and it’s great exercise,” she said. “It’s so fun.”

Her son, 10-year-old Adam Hirsch, agreed.

“In the evening, it gets really fast and that makes it really awesome,” he said. “I like being with all my friends and you can enjoy it in warmer weather.”

Wilmot marketing director Ryan Church said the man-made snow churned out by machines on the property holds its own as long as there aren’t long stretches of warm weather. Last winter was bad in that way, he said, but this year has been fine, and colder temperatures are expected in the coming week.

“This year has been really nice,” he said.

Church said the facility sees a lot of families and kids during the daytime, and then more teens and young adults later in the day and at night.

He noted that a lodge currently under construction is now offering food and adult beverages and is starting to become a place for older users to relax after tubing. Once finished the lodge will have a bar and dining area, like the ski mountain does. It will also feature party and banquet rooms.

The tubing area offers exciting and invigorating winter fun without requiring the athletic ability needed for skiing, allowing more people of all ages to enjoy it, he said. He also said it offers snow for those feeling snow-deprived.

“People may not have it in their back yards, but they can come to see us and there’s snow.”

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