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Season pass sales up after down winter - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Season pass sales up after down winter

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Vermont's mountains are a lush green but many can't wait until they turn white.

Ski resort season passes are selling slightly better than last year, despite a lack of snow in-state and across the country in the 2011-12 season. At least one mountain, Jay Peak, is seeing a 10% boost in pass sales.

Industry spokespeople say the bump is due to pent-up enthusiasm, secondary offerings, and early season deals.

"We had no so-called 'hangover effect' from kind of a tough winter that we had last year," said Ski Vermont President Parker Riehle, "that's great news for the coming season, it really shows consumer confidence with our market, our core market of season pass loyalists."

At Sugarbush, in the Mad River Valley, the deadline for early season pass rates is almost here. Early passes represent the bulk of all those sold at the mountain.

"Generally speaking, I would say that they're probably 80 - 90 percent bought by the early deadline rate," said P.R. Manager Patrick Brown, "right now we're trending above our year-to-date averages from last year."

Brown says not only does buying early provide value for the customer, but it also firms up the financial footing of the resort as they wait for the soft stuff to fly. "It's good for our revenue and our bottom-line to have the dollar values coming in early season as we prepare, as we ramp up, as we make purchases for the season," he said.

Since last season's snow melted, Riehle said many Vermont mountains updated snow-making as part of that ramp-up.

"We'll be armed and all the more ready to go in case Mother Nature is a little fickle again," he said, "with the additional snow-making investments and upgrades that have occurred, Vermont - statewide - now has 80% coverage."

That means 1,300 more acres will be under the snow-making gun in Vermont than are ski-able in all of New Hampshire. A better year on the slopes is almost guaranteed.

Riehle said many resorts are also beginning to reap the rewards of an increased emphasis on summer revenue streams. He says they're generally more stable and can help hedge against bad winters like last year's.

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