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Mild winter, little natural snow hurt ski area businesses

June 10, 2016

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A mild winter spelled a drop in business at northern New England ski areas, with Vermont resorts reporting a 32 percent decline in skier visits.

Little natural snow and the warmest winter on record kept snow-making guns from operating on a number of days.

“It was a warm start to the season, it was a warm middle part of the season for the most part and it was a warm finish and there was obviously a pronounced lack of snow in most areas, I would say, almost everywhere across northern New England,” said meteorologist Tony Vazzano, of Center Sandwich, New Hampshire, who provides weather forecasts to ski areas in Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire.

Ski Vermont says just over 3.2 million skiers and riders hit the slopes this year, following a record high 4.7 million skier visits last year, WCAX-TV reported.

Ski resort owners are “a little like farmers” in that they rely heavily on the weather, Okemo Mountain Resort spokeswoman Bonnie MacPherson said.

“As much we did and as much marketing we did it was just so hard to get people to come,” she said.

The season started with a dismal holiday week in December with rain and warm weather, limiting snowmaking abilities.

Sugarbush Resort offered adventure camps where kids were rock-climbing and hiking and had other events so people wouldn’t cancel their reservations, spokeswoman Candice White said.

“That was the toughest holiday period just because we had so little terrain open,” she said.

After Christmas week, the resort was able to make snow and was 100 percent open in January for periods of time.

Martin Luther King weekend was better than Christmas week, and going into the week including Presidents’ Day resorts had snow but it was bitter cold.

“When you have negative 30 degrees on that Sunday morning at the base, you just can’t convince people to come skiing,” White said.

Resorts are counting on more snow next winter.

Sugarbush looked back at its three worst snowfall years and found they were followed by above-average snowfall years, White said.

“And you get a bump from just all of the pent-up demand from not having a great season,” she said.

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