By Sandy Caligore
After arguably the warmest November and December in Northeast history, what will be the final verdict on the 2015-2016 ski and ride season?
After a chilly October that saw the likes of Killington, Vermont, and Sunday River, Maine, open in mid-month, the cold weather essentially shut down sites. Not even the greatest snowmaking systems in the East could overcome temperatures in the 60s and 70s up and down the East Coast on December 24. The weather was so bad—or good, depending on your view point—that flagsticks went back into some golf courses and locals were out playing in shorts on unfrozen ground.
Resorts throughout New York and New England were staying viable as a result of the snow they could make in limited meteorological windows.
Some actually promoted the ski and golf “doubleheader,” where several hours of turning on limited terrain could be followed by a few holes in spring conditions.
That’s great for the diehards, it’s nice to tell the grandkids, and it’s welcomed in April, but not what the majority desired in December.
Luckily, just after Christmas Day, that picture changed to winter with cold temperatures and accumulating snowfall. Trail counts grew exponentially and quickly.
Now, in snow country, it’s game time. Consumers need to catch up on their number of days on the hill and resorts must try to recoup holiday revenue. But that’s easier said, as the 10-day holiday period accounts for about 30 percent of a facility’s lift ticket sales in a given season.
Presidents’ Week marks the peak of the season
The long-range forecast into February has skiers, riders and resort operators optimistic. Given all the days early in the season when snow guns were muted due to the weather, on-hill crews are cranking man-made snow day and night.
Willard Mountain, about 30 miles northeast of Albany, bills itself as New York’s “Coolest Little Ski Area.” With reasonable pricing and day/night skiing hours, this is a good opportunity to get quality family time and skiing.
During Presidents’ Week, Willard will have a solid five days of holiday week lessons, starting February 15. The Willard Cup, a series of five youth races during the season, will be offered on February 18 for a nominal fee.
Hunter Mountain benefits from off-season investments
Over the summer, new ownership at Hunter Mountain, just a few exits down the Thruway from Albany, poured $1.2 million into an already powerful snowmaking system. The result was evident as soon as the weather changed.
Hunter’s trail count last month went from eight to 35 in just two weeks. Now, available terrain has grown to where Presidents’ Week business can be easily accommodated. Check Hunter’s ski report for the most current trail count and conditions.
If you’re on a multi-day trip to the Catskill resort, check out its Snow Tubing Park. It’s a great way to rest weary legs while still enjoying yourself on the hill.
Mount Snow in southern Vermont offers a varied destination experience
Capital region residents interested in a diverse destination experience should take a look at Mount Snow. The facility is about five hours due east of Albany; once you arrive, you’ll find a resort that caters to families. The menu of activities, beyond the skiing and riding experiences, features après ski for kids while you après ski with the adults. In addition, there are snowmobile tours, dog sledding, snow tubing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, cross country skiing and snow shoeing.
March could be a great month
Something tells us that with the slow start to the season, the interest in skiing this winter will last beyond the traditional winter months. With snow guns mostly silenced early this year, that snowmaking time will be made up in many locations as long as the weather cooperates. That bodes well for spring skiing and boarding. In next month’s final column of the winter, we’ll make sure you know where to find deep stashes under higher sun, with a look at a quintessential trek for those serious about their snow sports experiences.