Ski resorts hope for cold weather

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(Host) Thanksgiving ushers in another ski season. But analysts in Vermont’s ski industry admit that the lack of natural snow will hurt turnout this weekend.

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, ski areas are hoping that better snowmaking and other improvements will help compensate for the slow start.

(Keck) David Dillon, president of the Vermont Ski Areas Association, says last year was not great for the industry. Poor snow conditions early and then a deep freeze through most of January took its toll. Luckily, he says, excellent snow conditions in February and March caused a much-needed rebound. But he says the lack of natural snow now will take its toll on the coming season.

(Dillon) “What we know is that if we’re lacking, for example, Thanksgiving this year we don’t have any natural snow as yet – although there is some forecast for later in the week. We won’t have a real strong Thanksgiving this year and we can’t recover those skier visits. And if they don’t come now, even though they may come later, we can’t make up for that day we’ve lost. So each day and each weekend is important for the industry.”

(Keck) Sure a snow storm would be welcome, but officials at Stowe say colder than normal weather in early November helped the resort crank out lots of manmade snow. Spokesman Jeff Wise says two runs are open from top to bottom this weekend. He says the resort also put in two new chairlifts this summer, including a high-speed detachable quad, which he says will make a big difference in speeding skiers up the mountain.

At Killington, 20 trails are open. Spokesman Gillis Lynn says the resort spent $4 million this summer on snowmaking upgrades and other improvements.

(Lynn) “What we’ve done over this past summer is probably three times as much as what we’ve done over the course of the past couple of summers.”

(Keck) Lynn says skiers will notice new signage across the resort as well as big changes on Bear Mountain, which caters to advanced skiers and snowboarders. He says there will be new tree skiing there as well as an adventure park with a half pipe, rails and other elements.

David Dillion, of the Vermont ski Areas Association, says resorts across the state have been spending millions on upgrades over the past several years to better compete with resorts out west. While those improvements will help, he says for holiday weekends some well placed snow storms in Philadelphia, Hartford or Boston would be even better.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck.

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