On December 23, 2020

Skiers, riders celebrate snow

Mike Nocek skiiing at Pico Opening day. By Tucker Marshall

By Emma Cotton/VTDigger

Nick Grandchamp took one look at the snowy pile covering his car Thursday morning, Dec. 17, and walked to work instead.

There, at the Rutland Area Food Co-op, it was an unusually quiet day. The store, which usually closes at 7 p.m., closed at 4 p.m., he said. Most people in the area were snowed in after Winter Storm Gail dropped between 17-44 inches throughout the region.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency in 18 New York counties because of the storm, and a record 41 inches fell in Binghamton, according to the New York Times.

Okemo reported 44 inches, which is also a record for a single storm.

“This is definitely a historical storm because of the snowfall,” said Roger Hill, meteorologist based in Worcester.

Hill confirmed that several locations in Vermont reported total snowfall of more than 40 inches and VTrans drivers concurred reporting over two feet of snow in the southern counties of Vermont.

But because of the snow’s lightness, conditions don’t appear to have caused major power outages in the region. Thursday afternoon, Green Mountain Power’s outage center was reporting just one affected customer in the state.

“As forecasted, the snow is light/lesser density which means it’s less likely to cause outages, compared to heavy wet snow or ice,” said Kristin Kelly, the utility company’s director of communications.

Hill said northern Vermont didn’t see much snow. Snow totals dropped off significantly starting just south of Barre.

The light, fluffy snow was particularly good news for ski resorts, Hill said, adding “They’re going to be swimming in snow for a long time,”although forecasts show warming temperatures on Christmas Eve that could bring some rain.

Still, in the midst of a season made difficult by both the pandemic and warmer-than-average temperatures, ski resorts are saying the snow was a well timed gift before the holidays.

Bonnie MacPherson, communications manager for Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow, was baffled by the snow totals.

“In my whole life, I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said. “I live 10 miles from the mountain, and I’m just amazed. It just kept coming.”

All day staff at Okemo watched a stake used to measure snow, which is wiped clean at 6 a.m. every day.

“The measuring stick only goes to 24 inches,” she said. “That just got buried by mid-afternoon. I’m confident that we got 40 inches based on our guy on the mountain who was out there reporting all day, but we don’t have anything that measures that much snow.”

Killington Ski Resort was able to open seven additional trails on Thursday, bringing the total to around 30 open trails. That increased to 50 for the weekend. The resort’s sister mountain, Pico, also opened this weekend as planned.

Courtney DiFiore, communications manager for Killington, said there weren’t more people than usual on the mountain Thursday. Because of the pandemic, the resort is restricting the number of skiers and riders on the mountain regardless of powdery conditions.

In terms of the “vibe,” DiFiore said the general mood was elevated.

“Stoke is very high on the mountain,” DiFiore said. “Everybody’s super thrilled to be out there.”

MacPherson said the snow was an operational setback, Thursday, but it’s worth it.

“We have to dig out, you know, because there’s so much of it,” MacPherson said. “It’s going to be slow-going for us to groom and get ready for tomorrow, but oh my god, tomorrow’s gonna be an awesome day.”

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