It’s been a banner year for Vermont’s ski areas and — and it hasn’t ended for some of the biggest resorts. Ski Vermont reports that with seven- and-a-half feet of snow remaining on the state’s highest peak, the largest resorts are staying open.
The lack of a mid-winter thaw this year laid the groundwork for a strong and long ski season.
Ski Vermont, the trade association for resorts across the state, has not yet compiled the data on this season’s number of skier visits, but it is touting the volume of snow that fell. Spokesperson Sarah Wojcik reports an average of 240 inches fell on Vermont’s mountains this year and much of it still on the ground. She points to the snow stake used by the National Weather Service on Mount Mansfield, the highest mountain in Vermont. It read 7 ½ feet as of April 9th, a record amount for the season and far above the seasonal average.
“We didn’t have the normal thaws and rains throughout the season that had taken any snow away. So it’s really the snow pack at the end of the season that’s quite impressive because it all stuck around. If some of the resorts out west were getting their average or above average snow, we probably wouldn’t be claiming the most snow in the continental U.S.”
Jay Peak Ski Resort is making that claim. It has 357 inches, outpacing western resorts in accumulated snow. Spokesman J.J. Tolland says their seasonal average is about 380 inches but this year was unusually cold, leading to exceptional powder skiing. “We’ve seen a lot of skiers from Europe in particular this year because the European mountains were dry as well, similar to the American west. So we saw a lot of re-routing where groups from Germany and the U.K. who would typically fly to the Rockies or California were flying right into Logan and then driving up to us and to Vermont because Vermont had the most snow out of anywhere in the country. We’ll wind up finishing about 5 percent ahead of where we were last year. And last year was a banner year.”
At Okemo Mountain Resort, about 11 feet of natural snow fell on top of a man-made base. Spokesperson Bonnie McPherson says they will operate through this week and then open again for their final weekend at the end of April. “It’s about on par with a typical winter. What I think the big difference this year was we didn’t have those thaws and the re-freezing. The temperatures were constant. They were constantly cold and so that really helped us preserve the snow and preserve the conditions. So we ended up with a long spring season. We made snow on high traffic areas anticipating a long spring and we’re finishing strong.”
Even the nordic ski centers say the cold weather cycle that kept the snow intact helped extend their season. Middlebury College’s Rikert Nordic Center has the second largest cross-country ski track in the country. While it has officially closed, Director Michael Hussey says some trails at higher elevations are usable. “The warm weather Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, today, has taken the trail system from basically 100 percent to about 10 percent. That said a little further north I know Trapp’s for instance is going to stay open through this Sunday. Craftsbury and some of the areas further north will be open a little bit longer. It’s actually a great season for the industry because people are skiing out their back door in Middlebury. They’re skiing out their back door in Connecticut. They’re skiing out their backdoor in Albany. So they’re not necessarily coming to the centers. They’re flocking to nordic skiing or skiing in general which is great for the industry.”
Last year Vermont saw 4.5 million skiier visits. Ski Vermont says initial reports indicate visits this season are better or on par with last year.