Rough ride for area ski resorts headed into busy Presidents Day Weekend

Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 5:18 PM EST
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LUDLOW, Vt. (WCAX) - The rain and temperatures in the 40s on Friday were not exactly ideal conditions for ski resorts across our region heading into the busy Presidents Day Weekend.

It was actually lightning, not the rain, that delayed the start at Okemo Friday. And the crowds were not what you expect to see on the Friday of President’s Day weekend.

“The trails were good, a lot of snow. A lot of people were saying they like the snow. It was a little slushy,” said Alejanero Betancourt of New Jersey.

His friend wasn’t as optimistic.

“This winter has been terrible,” said Russell Vasquez of New Jersey.

Terrible may be a bit overstated, especially if you enjoyed the bluebird day at Jay Peak last weekend. Though, the recent thaw then freeze made for some icy conditions.

The woods are where you can often go to avoid the ice. It’s all natural in there. But, they’ve been hit or miss. In early February, there was enough powder in the trees to pad a fall.

The sound of the turns could give a good idea of the conditions at Cannon Mountain in mid-January-- loose granular that the Northeast is known for.

And with no significant snowfall recently, it’s been all up to the snowguns to get the trails open.

“This season, while it’s been a lack of natural snow, we are right where we should be in regards to snowmaking,” said Bruce Schmidt, the general manager of Okemo.

But the experts say it’s the storms, especially in bigger cities like Boston and New York, that often drive skier traffic to our region.

“The folks that really need to see that winter weather to say, ‘Oh, we should go skiing.’ That’s the part of the market that we need to sort of keep energized as we roll into March,” said Molly Mahar of Ski Vermont.

Last year, Vermont alone saw roughly 3.8 million skier visits. That translates into around $900 million in economic impact.

“The sense that I get is we are probably a little bit behind where we were last year,” Mahar said.

“We drove four hours to get here and got to make the best of it, that is why we are here today,” Vasquez said.

And tomorrow is a new day. Officials say more seasonal temperatures will return, which means the guns will be firing. The mountain ops crews at Okemo will be ready.

“Grooming will help us,” Schmidt said. “We will run our winch cat to make sure that we can pull snow from the bottom of a trail.”

Officials say they will keep blowing snow whenever possible so they can stay open well into April.