After a pair of very rainy days, and a November that saw a streak of mild temperatures, Vermont's ski industry is hoping for a cool-down in this first week of December to help it get its 2015-2016 season off to a stronger start.
"I wouldn't press a panic button, for sure," said John Bleh of Sugarbush Resort. "We'll be turning on the snow guns tomorrow, and if you look at the 10-day forecast, there's a bunch of windows to make snow."
While people in the lower elevations saw big puddles Wednesday and some black ice Tuesday, there is snow in the mountains. However, it is not at the depths or coverage levels resorts would like, after recent warm-ups and rainfall.
Still, nine of the state's resorts are open for skiing and riding, with two more opening this weekend, according to the trade group Ski Vermont.
"Pay no attention to what you see in your backyards, because in the mountains, it's full-on winter," said Parker Riehle of Ski Vermont.
Rewind to this time last year, though, and there was a good amount of natural snow, and temperatures cold enough for snowmaking in early November. That set the stage for what turned out to be a record 2014-2015 season for Vermont resorts, with nearly 4.7-million skier and rider visits statewide, according to Ski Vermont data.
Bleh and Riehle said last season's start was unusually strong, and this year's launch is more typical. They both pointed out it is still early for the industry, which really kicks into high gear during the Christmas break, and sees busy days for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day holiday weekends.
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"You're going to have rain, you're going to have freeze / thaw cycles at the beginning of the season just as you do at the end of the season," Bleh noted, saying a combination of possible natural snowfall and snow blown from snow guns in the coming days should make for good conditions for skiing and riding this weekend.
Snowboarder Jamal Reid found a silver lining to this week's rain clouds, however: a seemingly private resort at Sugarbush.
"And that's what makes rainy days even more fun a lot of times, because you get to have the mountain to yourself," Reid told necn. "A lot of people don't think about coming up."
Getting skiers and riders to think about coming to the mountains is the uphill task for this downhill industry. Grassy lawns or puddles just don't seem to energize consumers, Riehle said, even when there is snow at higher elevations.
"That 'backyard syndrome' is a challenge any year," Riehle said. "No matter how much snow we're getting in the mountains in Vermont, if there's not snow in the backyards of Boston, New York, and Connecticut, it's very hard for that market to get fired up about getting in the car and driving to Vermont."
Riehle pointed out resorts have invested in technology like web cams and expanded their social media presences in recent years to aid their marketing efforts by trying to appeal to consumers whether or not resorts have the "free advertising" boost from natural snowfall.
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