Ski Resorts Cope with Warmer Start to Winter

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The warm start to winter hasn't been a boon for everyone - especially ski resorts that rely on colder temperatures for business.

"Our snow-making system has been our saving grace thus far this winter," said David Meeker, a spokesman for Mount Snow in Vermont. Heading into the new year, he said about 40 percent of the mountain's trails were open, compared to the usual 60.

But Meeker said it's still very early in the season, and he's confident the coming winter months will bring more favorable conditions. And Mount Snow is equipped with more than 250 snow fans, he said, to produce snow once the temperature's right.

"We've been doing our absolute best to get as much open as possible," Meeker said. "Since everybody's in the same boat this year, you know everyone's experiencing the same challenges."

One of those problems is a small amount of natural snowfall.

Beth Barry, a spokeswoman for Windham Mountain in upstate New York, said the resort is so far relying pretty heavily on its snow guns.

“Last year we had a lot of natural snow before Christmas, but right now we have just shy of half our terrain open, and we’re a lot luckier than other resorts,” she said. “There’s a lot of resorts who aren’t open yet in the east, because they don’t have the snowmaking infrastructure that we do,” she said.

But another problem is that snow machines need cooler temperatures, usually in the teens to low 20s, to be able to manufacture snow.

Danielle Vajtay, a spokeswoman for Plattekill Mountain in the Catskills, said inconsistent temperatures are making that production difficult.

"We haven't had quite the temperatures, the steady temperatures, to really lay down lots of snow," she said. "But, you know, battling with mother nature is always the case at a ski mountain."

Many point out that it’s also still pretty early in the season. The holiday weekends in late December and early January can bring in plenty of visitors – but so do the weekends preceding Martin Luther King, Jr Day in mid-January, and President’s Week in February, when kids are home from school.