SAULT STE. MARIE – The Searchmont Ski Hill located 40 minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie saw 500 people take the hills this weekend, marking its earliest opening in 15 years.

"I think we beat last year by a day but we have more train open than other years as well," said Chris Greensted, Searchmont Resort Manager.

300 skiers came out on opening day and another 200 showed up on Sunday. Officials say those numbers would have been higher if it wasn't for the threat of rain.

"Skiing is my passion, I love it. To be able to get out this early, it takes away a lot of stress from the exams," said one skier.

"It's just awesome. I got new skis this year as well so I've been waiting and hoping they would open up early… it's just great. Before I go home for Christmas I get some turns in, so that's what it's all about," said another.

This year the owners invested significantly in the hill, spending $1.5 million on improving the facility.

"We put in a lift that's basically a belt conveyor that you stand on and ride instead of getting drugged up the hill by tow. We put in two of those," explained Greensted.

Another big change at the ski hill is a brand new restaurant and bar that officials say they're hoping will be open in January.

Currently, three runs are open with a fourth expected to drop this week. Crews are working around the clock and officials hope to open an additional four by next weekend.