Ask any skier or rider who has been on the slopes anywhere in the Northeast in the past week or so and they’ll likely tell you the snow is as good as it gets for this time of year — or any time of the year, really.
Ask ski resort officials about the numbers for this holiday week, however, and all will tell you they’re off pretty significantly from projections — and from last year.
“We went through a holiday period with absolutely beautiful skiing,” Willard Mountain owner Charles “Chic” Wilson said Tuesday. “It’s just that a lot of people don’t ski when it’s this cold out. We’ll be down 30 to 35 percent from last year.”
Wilson’s comments were echoed by officials from Gore Mountain, West Mountain and even Okemo Mountain in southern Vermont, where an almost unheard-of 120 of 121 trails were open for holiday week.
Okemo Marketing Director Bonnie MacPherson said Saturday hit expectations, with about 10,000 skiers on the hill. But that was the pinnacle and Sunday “took a nose dive.”
She said Okemo officials were so excited to be offering skiing on so many trails, only to have people stay away — with several even canceling reservations — because of the cold.
“We were set up for such a perfect vacation week, but Mother Nature goes, ‘you think things are good huh, well take this!’” she said.
Bone Bayse, general manager at Gore Mountain, called the holiday week numbers “respectable.”
“But if it was a few degrees warmer, we would have done better,” he said.
Bayse and the other ski area officials touted the conditions and said with the right clothing and various hand, toe and body warming options out there, the skiing can be had safely.
But all said they also understand that some simply don’t want to brave it — especially with kids.
“But I’m talking to as many as I can, especially families, and people are figuring out if they dress properly they’re gonna have a great day,” he said.
Asked if he’d been out in it, Bayse was quick with a response.
“I can’t stay inside when the skiing is this good,” he said.
Spencer Montgomery, owner of West Mountain Ski Center, said crowds were thinner than last year’s holiday week, but he said he won’t complain because the cold has allowed for amazing early season skiing conditions.
“There’s no doubt cold temperatures set back our numbers, but we’ve got the snow thing this year and I’m not going to complain one bit. That would be bad karma,” he said, adding that warm rainy weather is much worse than the cold. “Everyone is in the skiing mindset because we have a real winter going. We just need to convince people it’s not that bad.”
Montgomery said West Mountain’s elevation is lower than the big mountains and temperatures stay a little warmer than some. He also said the skiers and riders who have ventured out have been very complimentary.
“I wasn’t hearing anyone complaining,” he said.
I skied with my daughters and a friend last Thursday and yes it was cold, but conditions were great and well worth it. Just bundle up and use those amazing hand and toe warmers. I’d love to be the guy who invented those!
Bulls-eye for Double H
Years ago I wrote about a funnel contraption with a trash can under it I saw under a ski lift that skiers and riders would use to throw their bottles and cans into before exiting the lift. I wrote how West Mountain could use such a device to cut down on the unsightly string of returnables littering the hill each year.
Well, this year, there is one — and Double H Ranch is benefitting from it. The mountain is offering a 10-1 match for collected cans and bottles up to $5,000 and donating it to the ranch for critically ill children.
Oh, and patrons are loving it, Montgomery said.
“I’ve gotten a ton of comments on it,” he said of the contraption he calls the Bulls-eye. “It’s fun, it’s a challenge for the kids and it cuts down on litter.”