It’s OK to admit it. We deserve this.
“We’re definitely owed a good year after last season,” sad Sarah Wojcik, director for marketing and communications at Ski Vermont, the Green Mountain State’s skiing trade group.
One year after one of the worst skiing weather seasons in recent memory, the 2016-17 skiing and riding season has shot out to a strong start in New England, where consistent snowfall and ideal snowmaking temperatures have resorts breathing a sigh of relief during the all-important holiday vacation period in the mountains.
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“It’s still been a ton of work to get to where we are today, but Mother Nature has definitely given us a boost over last year,” Sunday River director of communications Darcy Lambert said. “We've made a ton more snow than we were able to at this time last year. We've received a ton more natural snow than we did at this time last year. So, both are setting us up for a great holiday week.”
As of last week, there were already 52 trails open at the Newry, Maine ski area, with the double diamond White Heat scheduled to open over the weekend. Occupancy levels at the Sunday River lodging properties are ahead of last year, and the numbers of visitors that the resort has been seeing in the days leading up to the holidays has been trending upward, according to Lambert.
“I think we’re definitely thankful for the snow,” she said. “Any time that it falls in our backyard, or it falls in our guests’ or passholders’ backyard, that’s a good thing for Sunday River.”
When two or more resorts in Vermont receive more than six inches of snow, Ski Vermont issues a “Powder Alert” to get the word out. There have already been six of them this season.
“I don’t think we had any last December,” Wojcik said, adding that it has snowed somewhere i the state almost every day in December. “So that’s actually a big jump.”
It has also translated to more skier visits, just slightly off from the numbers that Vermont saw two years ago, during what was the best season on record. The state saw 60 percent of all its downhill terrain open during the weekend before Christmas, and that was with ski areas such as Magic Mountain yet to open until just this past weekend.
“The natural snow has been great, and the temperatures have been great for snowmaking as well,” Wojcik said. “Seeing between 60 and 80 percent of terrain open moving into the holidays is the start of a good season.”
According to the National Ski Areas Association, last season welcomed only 9.3 million visits in the Northeast, which includes New England as well as New York. It was the weakest season for the industry in more than 30 years.
Erase that from your recollections though and instead, note that Wachusett Mountain, in Princeton, is nearly 100 percent open already at the dawn of the New Year. Cannon Mountain has 44 of its 95 trails open, the most terrain available at any mountain in New Hampshire. Jay Peak Resort had 46 of its 78 trails open heading into the weekend.
Happy Holidays indeed. After last season, we definitely deserve it.