MONTPELIER, Vt. – Just as ski areas across northern New England prepared for a dismal season to melt away, a steady snowfall over the last week has produced some of the best skiing of the season.
“We got 18 inches of snow,” said Eric Friedman, spokesman for Mad River Glen in Fayston. “We’re back in business.”
Mad River, which relies mostly on natural snow, had planned to close on Monday. After a banner weekend, the resort extended the season through Easter.
“It was honestly the best skiing of the year,” Friedman said of Saturday and Sunday. “It’s been a lousy year. There’s been a lot of pent up demand. This weekend they came out in droves.”
Mad River even had to lure back workers who left to find spring and summer jobs.
Many ski areas in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont reported strong turnouts over the weekend.
Burke Mountain Resort in northeastern Vermont received more than 2 feet of snow. “It’s just unbelievable,” said Trish Hubbard, Burke’s marketing manager. “This weekend was all powder skiing. Midwinter conditions in mid-March.”
Skiers and snowboarders lined up at Jay Peak ticket booths well before 8 a.m. Sunday, said Chris Veillon, Jay’s marketing director. Jay reported 4 feet of new snow in the last week, half of which fell this weekend.
“Sunday was probably the best day of the year,” Veillon said.
The resort near the Canadian border plans to stay open until at least April 14, depending on the weather.
The National Weather Service is calling for a mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain in the region late Tuesday and Wednesday.
In Maine, the mountains received 8 to 10 inches of snow last week but it wasn’t enough to keep Shawnee Peak from closing on Sunday.
Most of the state’s other major ski areas, Ski Mount Abram, Sunday River, Sugarloaf, Squaw and Big Mountain, are still open, said Greg Sweetser, executive director of the Ski Maine Association.
If nothing else, having some snow on the ground in populated southern and coastal regions helped to reinvigorate skiers, luring them to the slopes in large numbers last weekend, he said.
Many New Hampshire ski areas are delaying closing for the season after most got more than a foot and a half of snow last week and another few inches Monday morning.
“It was looking pretty grim a couple weeks ago,” said Eric Webster at Ragged Mountain, which had planned to close April 1, but will now be open until at least April 6.
“It looks more winterlike now than it has all winter,” Webster said.
Areas that closed before the snow last week – including Black Mountain and Cranmore, had no plans to reopen.
Bretton Woods has the latest scheduled closing date in the state: May 5. Before the latest snow dump, the area had planned to close April 22.
Area managers said regardless of the snow conditions, it can be hard to get some skiers to go to the slopes in the late season.
“People get tired of skiing, they start thinking about something else,” said Doug Holler, manager of Dartmouth Skiway. “They want to come in November, but then when it’s warm, they’ve had enough.”
The area, owned by Dartmouth College but open to the public, has been open only on weekends for the last two weeks. Holler plans to close after Easter weekend.
One of New Hampshire’s most popular areas, Loon Mountain, plans to close April 14, and state-owned Cannon Mountain is sticking with its previously announced closing date of April 7.
Bolton Valley Resort in Bolton hopes to hang on until April 6.
“There’s no need for us to make snow, there’s plenty of natural snow,” said Jim Bauman, Bolton’s director of sales and marketing. Bolton sold about twice as many tickets on Sunday as it had the weekend before, he said. “As soon as the snow started, everybody started coming back,” he said.
At Bromley Mountain in southern Vermont officials said Monday had the best conditions of the year. Six inches of fresh snow, temperatures in the 20s, blue sky and no wind.