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Snowsports Resorts Enduring Inconsistent Weather

Slow start to winter is nothing new for mountain resorts in New England.

'Tis the season to be anxious.

And the past week has been a testament to that. First, there was cold. Then it warmed up. Then it rained. Then a cold front came screaming into the Northeast on the back side of that storm system.

It makes skiers and snowboarders crazy because they just want to get onto the snow.

''It seems like a slow start, and I know there is a lot of anticipation, but I call it average,'' says Karl Stone, the public relations director for Ski New Hampshire.  ''People are anxious, but this is the way it has always been this time of year.''

Most of the major New England mountains had already started to put a base down with their snowmaking systems, so they were able to get through the Dec. 1 rainstorm that dropped close to 2 inches in some areas. Both Ski New Hampshire and the Vermont Ski Areas Association anticipated that most of their resorts would be open by this weekend.

''It's nothing our snowmakers have not seen before,'' says Ski Vermont Public Relations Director Jen Butson.

In Connecticut, Woodbury Ski Area began making snow in mid-November and managed to remain open through the rain. It posted two open trails on Dec.  2, and resumed snowmaking that night. It is even offering tabletops, grinds, jumps and rails as terrain park features.

Connecticut's other snowsports areas, Mount Southington in Southington, Mohawk Mountain in Cornwall and Ski Sundown in New Hartford, plan to open the weekend of Dec. 10, but all the mountains are urging skiers and riders to check their respective Web sites before heading to the mountains. 

''We can say December 10, but a cold front to many is not necessarily the same to the snowmakers,'' says Mount Southington General Manager Ed Beckley.  ''Yes, 30 is cold, but we can't make snow at 30.''

Ideal snowmaking temperatures are at least in the 20s.

''If we get the temperatures, we will open that weekend,'' Beckley says.

Adds Stone, ''Once we get consecutive cold days, we are all well on our way.''

Several snowsports areas were busy this summer either working on new capital projects or putting the finishing touches on longstanding programs. In Vermont, Stowe has opened a new performing arts center at its Spruce Peak development, Sugarbush has new base lodges and Jay Peak now has a hotel, an ice rink, a new Nordic center and is planning additional lodging and a water park.

In New Hampshire, Cannon Mountain has installed a double chairlift to open up the terrain at its Mittersill area. The runs will not feature snowmaking and will therefore have an all-natural or backcountry feel to them.

Mount Southington installed a new triple chair last season and has a new surface lift for the beginner area.

Cranmore and Attitash are installing mountain-coasters that will run year-round. Gunstock, their Granite State neighbor, has plans for one on the table.  It is part of a movement within the snowsports industry to appeal to a wider audience.  Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont is also installing a coaster.

In Massachusetts, Jiminy Peak's coaster is operational.

"It gives the non-skiers something to do while others are on the snow," Stone says. "The coasters also give resorts additional year-round offerings."

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