A number of ski resorts, including Suicide Six, Middlebury’s College Bowl, Pico, Q-Burke and Cochran’s, have all closed for the season, as have some Nordic centers. But thanks to all the snow and cold this winter, many other resorts remain open, with Killington promising lift service into June.
While a lot of Vermonters may be more than ready for spring, this year’s extreme winter has been a boon to businesses tied to snow.
The last two ski seasons were some of the best on record, with more than 4.5 million skier visits.
It’s too early to tell how this season will sugar out – ski resorts typically don’t like to divulge skier visit data until the season is over. And because of all the snow and cold this winter, that may take a while.
But Bonnie MacPhearson of Okemo Mountain says skier visits there have been way up. “We’ve really had a good year. It’s above what we projected and it’s also above last year’s numbers and we’re finishing strong. All of our lodging properties are over 90 percent every weekend,” she says. And although things have slowed down mid-week, MacPhearson says, they’ll take the strong weekends as long as they can.
MacPhearson says 90 percent of their trails are still open, so the planned closing date of April 19 may get pushed back.
Killington’s Michael Joseph says the lack of a January thaw this year allowed snowmakers to stockpile more snow than usual on trails earmarked for spring skiing. “We built up the biggest base a lot of the folks here have ever seen on Super Star,” he says. “We’re looking at about 30 feet of depth on some spots for the trail.”
He says groomers will use that snow to help extend the season into June.
And although Joseph says the extreme cold over some key holiday weekends this winter did hurt business, he says overall the season has been fabulous. “We’re up across the board – everything from day tickets to season passes … [As for] spring passes, we sell our spring pass that’s valid from March 14 to the end of the season and we’ve sold about 1,000 more of those this year than last year and those are still on sale,” he says.
Nordic and back country skiers have also enjoyed a banner year. The Trapp Family Lodge and Ski Center in Stowe remains open with 50 kilometers of ski trails.
Roger Hill, operations manager of the Mountain Top Inn in Chittenden, says they had some of the best conditions ever on their 60 kilometers of trails. He says it was almost painful to close at the end of March, since every trail was still in great shape.
At the Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, General Manager Brian Wade has been selling skis for 10 years and says this has been one of the best ever for the store’s bottom line. “Long, cold and especially snowy winters are great for us,” he says. “For the most part I think it’s just, ‘Hey I’m kind of on the fence but oh well, the snow’s really good I’m just going to do it.’”
Wade says ski department sales jumped nearly 25 percent this year while the extreme cold helped push sales of clothing accessories – mostly hats and gloves – up 40 percent.