By Robin Alberti
Skiers line up for a ride up the quad on opening day at Pico Mountain, Saturday, Jan. 2.
By Polly Lynn
On the eve of the new year, winter has finally arrived. Cold temperatures, sustained snowmaking and 5 inches of fresh snow from the first storm of the season, Tuesday, Dec. 29, allowed area resorts to expand their trail offerings — and for Pico Mountain and Suicide Six to open for the season! Saturday, Jan. 2, skiers and riders enjoyed opening day on Fool’s Gold, Lower Pike and Bonanza trails at Pico. The resort hopes to open Summit Express and 49er on Friday, Jan. 8 if all goes according to the plan. Until then, My Pico and Vermont Student Season Pass holders can use their pass to ski and ride at Killington.
The new snow and snowmaking temperatures also allowed Killington Resort personnelle to drop the ropes on Powerline, Upper Ridge Run, Upper Double Dipper, and FIS, boosting the trail count to 39 open trails as of Tuesday, Jan. 5.
Okemo also took full advantage of the cold temperatures blasting their snowguns to cover as much terrain as possible in advance of Martin Luther King weekend, Jan. 15-18. They reported 42 trails open.
But the late arrival of winter did take it’s toll. Killington resort reported lodging occupancy for the Grand Hotel and its managed condo properties was at 46 percent occupancy for Christmas week. New Year’s Eve through the weekend the resort was up to 77 percent, then it dropped to 40-50 percent occupancy midweek for the first week of 2016. Area businesses have reported similar numbers for the holiday weeks, which typically accounts for a significant portion of winter tourism revenue for resorts, shops and restaurants.
Prior to winter storm “Goliath,” which in total brought up to 11 inches of snow to Vermont’s ski and snowboard resorts according to skivermont.com, there had been no natural snow and it has been too warm to make snow.
In fact, temperature records were shattered across the northeast, according to the National Weather Service, which recently released preliminary month-end number for December. The average temperature in Boston was 45.4 degrees, nearly 11 degrees above average and in New York City the average was 51 degrees, 13.3 degrees higher than normal. Burlington also posted a new record at 6 degrees over their pervious record high for the month.
“A few days of 50-degree weather in December is not unusual. What was so unusual this year is that it was such a prolonged patter of warmer weather,” said Bill Simpson, a meteorologist with the national Weather Service.
“Goliath not only brought snow to the mountains, but skiers and snowboarders as well, excited about the winter weather,” said Ski Vermont’s Sarah Wojcik. “There was certainly a pent up demand for winter in the ski community, as you could see from smiles of the enthusiastic skiers and riders that charged the mountains after the snow.”