Every Vermonter knows that if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.
Ski areas in the southern part of the state saw that pattern play out in cruel fashion two weeks ago when 2-3 feet of fresh snow disappeared in a flash. Record-high holiday temperatures in the 60s devastated the early-season conditions at many places, forcing some to close temporarily while others held on by a thread.
According to the Vermont Ski Areas Association, 37% percent of Alpine terrain is open across the state. In comparison, 70% of downhill trails were ready for skiing and riding at this time last year. The five-year average for this date is 61%, while the 10-year average is 63%.
Roughly 16 Alpine and 16 Nordic areas were operating Thursday, with colder conditions and sunny skies providing an ideal window for outdoor recreation. There has been a 14% spike in the amount of open terrain during the last 10 days as ski areas maximized snowmaking with below-freezing temperatures.
There may not be a lot of precipitation in the immediate forecast, but that’s not stopping thousands of Vermonters from bundling up and hitting the slopes.
Here are three questions for Ski Vermont president Molly Mahar, followed by a glance at conditions. Maher is a Waitsfield resident who previously served as director of marketing at both Sugarbush and Bolton Valley.
TA: With the new protocols, what are some positive things that you’ve heard the past month and what are some common grumblings?
Maher: “Skiers and riders are really happy to be out enjoying the mountains again. Even with new requirements this year, being on the mountain gives people a feeling of normalcy and freedom. Ski area guests are following the mask and distancing requirements pretty well overall and that is really appreciated. Lift lines can look longer than we’re used to, but keep in mind that they have additional space built in to accommodate the necessary distancing. And in most cases wait times are not longer than usual. We continue to ask for people’s cooperation and patience in following the new requirements. This is important for everyone’s health and safety – and to ensure we can all keep skiing this winter.”
TA: If Covid cases continue to drop, do you expect ski areas will relax some of the restrictions or requirements?
Maher: “This would be up to the state, but no, I wouldn’t expect we will see much change in terms of relaxing COVID protocols at ski areas during this season. We look forward to the time when travel restrictions can be eased or lifted. We may see them eased before the end of the season if case counts drop far enough in the northeast. We hope they will be lifted well prior to next winter and that things will be much more back to normal from a COVID perspective by then.”
TA: Has there been a wide range of social distancing or enforcement from ski area to ski area?
Maher: “The state operating guidance is the same for all areas, and in many cases ski areas are using similar strategies or tools. For instance, most areas use ghost lanes in their lift mazes to ensure proper distancing between people in lift lines. Some areas are requiring reservations for skiing, parking, base lodge space or that you buy your lift ticket ahead of your visit. So it’s important to do your research ahead of your ski day so you don’t encounter any surprises when you get to the mountain.”
BROMLEYThere are four lifts, 21 trails and a base depth of 12-24 inches at the Peru ski area. Snowmaking will continue on Pabst Panic, Pabst Peril and Blue Ribbon.
KILLINGTON“The Beast” has the most terrain on the East Coast with 102 open trails, 13 lifts and a base depth of 24 inches. Lower Wildfire, Skyeburst and Northway benefitted from recent snowmaking efforts, and snow guns are also making improvements on Bearly and the top section of Lower Great Eastern. The current focus is preparing for skiing and riding down to the Skyeship Base Area via Great Eastern. There is a chance that Great Eastern will be open this weekend, along with Skyeship Gondola Stage 1 and the Skyeship Base Lodge.
MIDDLEBURY SNOW BOWLThe family-friendly ski area offers five trails, two lifts and a base depth of 14-38 inches.
MOUNT SNOWA base depth of 18 inches in West Dover has allowed operations to run smoothly with 47 trails and eight lifts. Thirty-five trails are expected to have fresh corduroy Friday and there are a combined 57 features at four terrain parks. Snowmakers keep hammering on Little Dipper, Ego Alley, Upper Exhibition, Charlie’s Chase, Committed, Roller Coaster, Junkyard, The Farm and Upper Fool’s Gold.
OKEMODespite the recent melt, there are still 66 trails, 13 lifts and a base depth of 2 feet at the Ludlow ski area. Seven inches of new snow in the past week — combined with some man-made efforts — allowed the Tuckered Out trail to make its 2021 debut Thursday. There are also dedicated snowmaking efforts on Blackout, Quantum Leap, Vortex, Upper Limelight, Robins Nest and Lift Line.
PICOEight inches of snow during the past week has been enough to keep things in good shape at Pico, where there are 20 trails, three lifts and a base depth of 18 inches. Snowmakers are working on B Slope and Bushwacker in hopes of opening those trails soon. Upper Pike is ready for action and skiers and riders can also access the Summit Glades on natural snow.
STRATTONA half-dozen trails will open Friday, including Upper Grizzly and Bear Bottom. Groomers plan to lay down corduroy on 52 trails, setting the stage for an ideal weekend on the slopes. There are nine lifts currently operating, with a base depth of 15 inches.
SUICIDE SIXThe area is celebrating its 85th season, which has been equal parts enjoyable and unpredictable. A 26-inch snow delivery last month was followed by a lengthy warm spell. The operations schedule is limited to Wednesday through Sunday, with four trails, two lifts and a base depth of 10-30 inches.
SUGARBUSHThe options are plentiful in the Mad River Valley, with Sugarbush boasting 83 trails, eight lifts and a base depth of 2-4 feet. Groomers plan to work on 33 runs Thursday night, as coverage is still thin in many areas. There are two terrain parks with a total of 27 features.
BRATTLEBORO OUTING CLUBThree of the lower trails were recently rolled, with 33 kilometers of skiing and variable conditions. The crust cruising is solid for early in the winter, thanks to an inch of fresh powder.
MOUNTAIN TOPThere has been 6 inches of snow in the last week, but some of the seven trails have thin cover in places. There are 9 kilometers of skiing, with tracks set for 3.5k. The snowmaking loop is in top-notch condition, thanks to a base depth of 4-6 inches.
PROSPECTAll 55 trails are open, covering 32 kilometers. Things are still in great shape after a 30-inch snow dump.
RIKERTFour inches of snow the last two days set up a high-quality environment, with all 48 trails ready for skiing. Three of the 38 kilometers were groomed Wednesday, and the remaining trails were groomed during the previous two days.
WILD WINGSSix trails with packed powder give skiers a chance to get in 32 kilometers of quality exercise. Turkey, Woodcock, Snow Goose, Grouse and Peregrine are open, adding up to 10k of classic and 6k of freestyle terrain.
WOODSTOCK INNTracks are set on 18 of the 38 kilometers. Five inches of snow the last seven days created a base depth of 4-9 inches. There are a few areas with water or thin spots on some of the 29 trails. Most trails on Mount Tom were rolled and packed this week.