On Dec. 25, 2015, I parked my truck on the beach and helped my kid launch the air rocket he’d gotten for Christmas. I was in shorts with bare feet -- and I live in New Jersey.
It was the warmest winter any of us could remember. 2015-16 set new seasonal records in places like Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Caribou, Maine. Boston and New York were balmy. But while February flip-flops and not breaking your back with a snow shovel sound nice, if you’ve got a passion for the hills, it was brutal.
Just a year after being buried by a nonstop barrage of storms and frigid weather, the Northeast and mid-Atlantic saw a record lack of white.
Warm rainfalls killed base snow levels. Resorts turned to mud. Ski-town economies plummeted and events had to be cancelled.
“I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that it was a less-than-stellar season. Mother Nature did not treat us nicely last year,” Chloe Elliott, communications manager at Ski Vermont, told GrindTV.
But a new season is upon us and things are lining up nicely for a Northeast redemption. Killington, Vermont, got 81 inches of snow total in the 2015-16 season. As of Jan. 5, 2017, they’ve got 94 inches and counting.
“To put it in perspective, last year going into the holidays, Vermont had about 10 percent of open terrain. This year, we had at least 75 percent open. Last week, Sugarbush already had 100 percent of its terrain open,” added Elliott.
After feeling the effects of El Nino last winter, this season is setting up for a La Nina phase this year, albeit a weak one. Forecasts aren’t calling for a particularly cold or snowy season, but if the right patterns develop, it could mean plentiful deposits for New England. Mid-Atlantic resorts that rely on snowmaking can fire up the guns each night without fear that their hard work will wind up in a puddle in the parking lot by late day.
“It feels great. Last year, we weren’t even open at this time. This year, we’re all hands on deck, keeping people working,” Tricia Matsko, director of marketing at Blue Mountain in Pennsylvania, told GrindTV.
“The first weekend we opened in December, we had nine features in the park,” she continued. “There are some years we don’t have nine features built all year.”
The positivity can be felt across the board.
“The 2015 winter season was the worst the industry has seen in 40-plus years. We lost a lot of business and a few stores from the lack of snow and cold weather. It hurt everyone, including the manufacturers,” Paulie Yaremko, East Coast rep for Ride Snowboards and Grenade Gloves, told GrindTV. “Good thing Mother Nature has helped with this preseason and shops are back on track with sales. I actually don’t have a board left to sell.”
Elliott reported that spirits are much higher, from the folks who live and work in the mountain towns to the visitors who come each year depending on the white stuff. “Between the snowmaking and the natural snowfall, we are definitely expecting it to be up there as one of the better seasons,” she said.