How you could be skiing on last year's snow at one Vt. ski area

Published: Dec. 16, 2019 at 5:21 PM EST
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Recent rain and warm temperatures have been a setback for cross-country ski areas which had been enjoying a strong start to the season. But one local Nordic center is turning to last winter for some help.

Our Kiernan Brisson visited the Craftsbury Outdoor Center on Monday. Like many Nordic areas, Craftsbury relies on a combination of natural and man-made snow. But they also have some snow on standby just in case.

"We're having so many winters where the temperatures are just fluctuating up and down, back and forth, losing all our snow even in January and February," said Eric Hanson of the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.

But that isn't the story this year since the Craftsbury Outdoor Center was able to open their cross-country trails a week early and stay open through warm spells. That's thanks to a pile of snow they saved from last February. They've been able to use it to add to what they get naturally and what comes from their snow guns to keep trails open.

"So we started the idea of let's make some snow that we can at least have a one-, two-, three-kilometer loop that's consistent for our guests," Hanson said.

The center has been working on snow saving practices for about four years now. They piled the snow under layers of wood chips and tarps which kept it frozen through the summer. This is the first year they've used the snowpack on their trails.

"Partly because we had some good natural snow but then we were able to get the man-made out and make it really solid, and that's been really actually critical the last two weeks, but so far it's been working and we've actually almost used about eighty percent of it this year," Hanson said.

Athletes who come to Craftsbury say the snow-saving strategies have helped them with training and created better trail conditions.

"Craftsbury's always a go-to spot for early season skiing, especially after we just had a lot of rain and warm temps. I think the community members and even the upper-level athletes all benefit from that," said Raleigh Goessling, a biathlete.

"It's been going well. I've been enjoying it," said Luke Brown, a biathlete.

Brown travels all over the country participating in biathlons. He will be leaving Craftsbury after this weekend.

"I mean, I'd love to spend more time here but we kind of have to travel to where the races are," Brown said.

Trail maintenance teams say the stored snow is great for maintaining the ski trails, but they're still trying to improve their snow storage practice.

"It still is-- taking a little more time than we would hope, and it's not perfect," Hanson said. "But given that we've had a few Novembers where we just weren't getting cold enough temperatures, it seems like it's a nice thing to have in your pocket."

The Craftsbury Outdoor Center will host its first biathlon racing event over the weekend, beginning Thursday, Dec. 19, and concluding on Sunday, Dec. 22.