If last Friday’s torrential rain was a skier’s nightmare, it at least served as a midseason challenge for snowmaking teams across New England.
Alas, by the time the pounding ended in the Boston area, the previous week’s snowstorm was amounted to little more than scattered piles of ice by Saturday morning, with temperatures rapidly dropping into another deep freeze. It made for a trying start to the long weekend for many ski areas.
But by Sunday, many spots found redemption under bluebird skies. In New Hampshire, King Pine provided a remarkable skiing experience with nearly every trail open with good coverage. On Monday, Bretton Woods was blowing snow and boasted very few icy spots during the prime time hours of the day.
Indeed, it wasn’t a weekend for skiing the woods or other all-natural trails that have since solidified. But it was one that spoke to just how rapidly resorts can recover.
At Vermont’s Mount Snow, the weather provided an opportunity to prove why the resort dedicated some $30 million last offseason into upgrading its snowmaking system. By doubling its ability to create snow with three new pump houses, increasing water capacity from 6,000 gallons to 10,000 gallons per minute, and putting the finishing touches on West Lake — a 118-million gallon reservoir — Mount Snow was at the forefront of the thaw.
“We’re never excited about a rain event,” said Jesse Boyd, vice president of operations for Mount Snow’s parent company, Peak Resorts, “But we knew with our system that we would be able to recover faster than everybody else. It was an exciting challenge and the team did a great job.”
With temperatures dropping quickly, the snow guns were running by 7 a.m. at Mount Snow on Saturday morning. “We used about a total of 400 snow guns during that time period,” Boyd said. “Pretty wild.”
Fifty-two hours later, the snowmaking team had already successfully re-surfaced 268 acres of trails, a quick turnaround that already backed up the multi-million dollar investment.
“Obviously early in the season we were trying to get stuff open and you’re trying to win the trail count game, that was sort of the first test,” Boyd said. “But this was really the first big resurfacing test that we’ve had and the system just worked wonderfully.”
So, the rain and warmth weren’t death knells, thanks to vast improvements in snowmaking and the cold that followed.
But this week’s real snow won’t hurt a bit either, of course. More of that too, please.