April 06, 2020

Trails great at ski areas> Holiday weekend critical for resorts

MONTPELIER, Vt. — A week after a historic storm encrusted parts of the northeast with thick layers of ice, northern New England ski areas are working hard to let potential skiers know the conditions are great.

It only took most ski areas a few days for the snow-making equipment and grooming machines to erase from the trails the immediate effects of the rain and ice that fell during the three-day storm.

Now the resorts are saturating the metropolitan areas of southern New England and New York with advertisements letting skiers know they can head north to ski the three-day Martin Luther King holiday weekend, a crucial weekend for the resorts.

And with a major snowstorm due to hit the region Friday, resorts are looking forward to a great weekend.

“We have excellent skiing conditions and with the storm coming up, that will be frosting on the cake,” said Bill Stenger, of Vermont’s Jay Peak ski area.

But Jay Peak, just south of the Canadian border, has been hurt by the storm. Stenger said Thursday business was off 60 percent.

But it’s not because of the conditions. More than half of the resort’s business comes from Quebec, mainly the Montreal area, where almost a million people are still without power.

“The residents of Greater Montreal have been more concerned about their homes and their jobs than skiing,” Stenger said. “And that’s understandable.”

Molly Mahar Kerr, marketing director of the Vermont Ski Areas Association, said her office and the resorts have been bombarded with calls from skiers wanting to know if they should cancel their trips.

“But obviously we are telling them (the storm) was very localized,” Mahar Kerr said.

At Maine’s Sunday River Ski Area, Vice President Skip King said that business was only off by about 10 percent due to the storm. And in spite of there still being more than 80,000 electric customers without power in Maine, the situation is near normal at both Sunday River and Sugarloaf USA.

Both Sunday River and Sugarloaf are owned by the American Skiing Co., which also owns resorts in New Hampshire and Vermont.

“There are very few of the lodging establishments off the main roads,” King said. “They are the ones who get (power) restored first.”

Vermont Ski Area’s President Candy Moot said her office had been working all week to combat the impression the ice storm hurt the ski industry.

One employee “has been chained to the fax machine sending things to every news outlet in the eastern United States,” she said.

They have been making and distributing fresh television ads, saying the skiing is great. “Regular TV and print ads don’t count,” Moot said.

The Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing is helping out with $50,000 to help buy extra television time.

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