Photo courtesy of Okemo Mountain Resort
A snowboarded emerges from deep powder at Okemo Mountain Resort last week.
Bitter cold temps put a damper on visits, but conditions among the best in the country
By Polly Lynn
Despite the bitter cold temperatures, brave skiers and riders report terrific snow. Storm after storm, the inches have added up, creating powder conditions on the slopes of Vermont.
President’s Day weekend and following week typically are among the busiest periods of the year for ski resorts. This year visitation was slightly down, due to the below zero temperatures.
“There are always challenges that we face during different vacation weeks, and this year will be no different,” said Okemo VP and general manager Bruce Schmidt in a blog post Sunday, Feb. 15. “There is great snow all around the mountain, which is making for some great skiing and riding… The media is talking about how cold it will be and the wind. It will be cold, but it is winter in Vermont… The skiing is going to be great, if guests dress appropriately.”
Comments on social media ranged from complaints of frozen toes to calls for toughness from folks like Phil McCole from Putnam, Conn. who wrote: “For God’s sake, it’s skiing! Which is done on snow. In winter. In Vermont. In cold weather. Perhaps some other hobby if none of that is acceptable?”
Many brave skiers and riders also accompanied posts with photos, indicating the conditions and their experience on the slopes was worth sacrificing a digit or two to capture on camera.
Michael Joseph at Killington Resort reported that while the slopes were quieter than most years over the President’s Day weekend, lodging nights and business in food and retail did well. He also noted that Killington did receive an influx of skiers and riders Monday, as some resorts to the north had reportedly closed, including Sugarbush and Smugglers’ Notch. Others, including Jay, operating minimally (only their magic carpets were open). Joseph expected the business to pick up mid-week and the following weekend as temperatures were forecast to rise.
Currently, Vermont is on track to match last year’s 4.5 million skier and rider visits — the third best on record — and could see that number improve, the Associated Press reported Feb. 15. Skier visits in Vermont consistently rank number one in the East and number three in the country, behind only Colorado and California, according to the National Ski Areas Association. And while Vermont might not beat its larger competitors to the west in visitation, those that have chosen to ski Vermont have been handsomely rewarded this year.
Resorts across the state are posting 150-200 inches of natural snowfall already this season, with most of it falling at temperatures well below freezing, creating light, powdery conditions. The mid-winter thaws that typically create set-backs for Eastern resorts have abated.
The same luck has not blessed Western resorts, however. Colorado has endured unseasonably warm weather causing snow to fall heavy and melt, while California has experienced one of the driest Januarys on record, which indicates the state is likely headed for a fourth straight year of drought, officials predict.
World class athletes have taken note of the snow in Vermont. In addition to the World Cup freestyle teams from Russia, Japan and the U.S. that came to train earlier this month, Vermont’s own Olympic champions Hannah Teter and Matt Gonzola returned last week to train at Killington Resort, according to Chuck Hughes KSC/KMS program and event director and Chase Morsey competition events coordinator for Killington Ski Club.
“It was great to have them back and for them to train at our facilities,” said Hughes, adding that they came into the ski club to warm up and stretch prior to their morning runs.
With the forecast calling for cold temperatures to continue, the conditions will remain prime for all to enjoy.