Monday December 3, 2012

ZEKE WRIGHT

Staff Writer

STRATTON -- A recent smattering of flurries in the lower elevations ought to signal to skiers that it’s time to hit the slopes. Ever dependent on Mother Nature, a number of big resorts opened for business in the latter half of November while some smaller ones are still holding off for better conditions.

"We had a great opening weekend," Stratton Mountain Resort communications coordinator Meryl Robinson said. "It was one of the best openings in the last few years for sure."

Of course, dismal snowfall totals last year were a low point for most: "It was a bad snow year. ... We’re hoping to have more to work with (this season)," said Robinson.

And more Vermonters may pick up the skis and snowboards after the two pursuits were formally designated the state’s official winter sports by Gov. Peter Shumlin this past March. Despite lackluster snowfall, state-of-the-art snowmaking and grooming enabled Vermont ski areas to remain largely open last season according to the Vermont Ski Areas Association, a nonprofit trade association.

"The 2011-12 season stands as a testament to the resiliency of our ski areas," said the nonprofit trade association’s president Parker Riehle, who touted 75 percent statewide snowmaking coverage (the amount of trail that resorts can artificially dump on).


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Robinson said there were many reasons Stratton was now open and going strong, including a lot of terrain coverage and a thick base layer on Stratton Mountain, where the first flakes fell Oct. 8. With such good conditions "it skis like it’s in the middle of winter," she said.

In a release, Stratton’s vice-president of operations, Mike Quinn, complemented the resort’s snowmakers and groomers. "While I can tell you that we can cover a football field in three feet of snow in just one hour, what is really important is how the stuff feels under our skis and boards," he said. Opened Nov. 21, Stratton is operating daily with seven trails currently across 175 acres. Through Dec. 21, children get to ski free with the advance purchase of any adult ticket (available online).

Nearby at Bromley Mountain Resort, the south-facing slopes combined with upcoming milder temperatures have caused the resort to close during weekdays to preserve terrain for the weekend. Entering "phase two" of the snowmaking process, Bromley General Manager Bill Cairns reported great conditions on some beginner terrain near the top. Sunday’s snow report indicated 11 open trails across 50 acres, and a base depth between one to two feet.

Changes at Bromley for the 2012/13 season include 60 new snowmaking tower guns at the top and an approximate $135,000 investment in the resort’s base lodge. The lifts began cycling Nov. 23 and Bromley is touting a revamped $89 adult first timer’s program. "Value tickets" at Bromley, valid any day of the season, must be purchased by Dec. 5.

Prospect Mountain Nordic Ski Center in Woodford has received several dustings of snow but remained closed this past weekend with only a thin snow surface.

Across the border in New York, Willard Mountain snowmakers began a valiant effort that was just not enough this past week. The first snowfall accumulation at Willard occurred Nov. 13.

Given mercurial conditions at this time of the year, ski resorts are taking advantage of social media to broadcast their latest conditions. While early season passes are tracking strongly, Robinson said Stratton’s Facebook and Twitter outlets had "exploded" with new fans and followers over the past month. Robinson said social media allowed eager followers to immediately share the latest from the slopes.

For the lastest conditions try www.skivermont.com

Follow @Zeke_Wright on Twitter or email ewright@benningtonbanner.com