Brutal Cold Lashes Ski Industry on Critical Presidents’ Day

Some lifts were kept from running due to high winds and dangerous cold

On Presidents' Day, typically part of a critical two-week period for Vermont's ski industry, brutally cold temperatures and vicious winds took a dent out of holiday traffic on the state's mountains.

Vermont resorts alerted visitors to weather impacts on their websites and social media. Jay Peak's website said high winds kept all aerial lifts from running Monday. Wind hold alerts also went up for some of the lifts at Bolton Valley and Killington, the resorts said on their Twitter accounts. And Smugglers Notch announced a cold hold on its website: one lift was stopped after wind gusts made it feel like 71 below zero at the top, the site noted.

At Mad River Glen in Fayston, which lifted its temporary wind hold on its famous single-chair lift Monday morning, brave skiers were enjoying the recent natural snowfall. Mad River spokesman Eric Friedman said the destination depends on natural snowfall, because it has very limited coverage from snowmaking guns. Friedman said Mad River has received about five feet of natural snowfall this month.

"When we get [snow] like this, like we've been getting it, they flock here like pilgrims to a holy shrine," Friedman told New England Cable News. "And it's amazing. It's unfortunate we're getting the cold weather which is keeping the crowds down."

Air temperatures of minus five and wind chills between minus 20 and minus 30 impacted visitation, Friedman said. He noted that if the temperatures were more moderate, the trails would have been far more packed on a holiday.

Presidents’ Day Weekend and the school vacation weeks that follow it are typically some of the busiest weekends and weekdays of the ski season, industry leaders have said.

The Julian family of Cohasset, Massachusetts got out of town and headed to Vermont before the weekend winter wallop dumped even more snow on their community. "It's crazy down there right now," dad Chris Julian said of Massachusetts.

The Julians traveled to where the snowfall is welcome, to Mad River Glen. "We've been stuck up here a few times, too, this year," Julian said. "It's been great. School's been canceled so we could just pull the kids out for powder days."

"We're always out here when we can get out here," added 11-year-old Toby Julian, noting that the family is not scared off from skiing in brutal cold or biting winds.

The Julians said they were keeping moving, dressing in lots of layers, covering exposed skin, and taking breaks between runs down the slopes for safety during the extreme cold.

Their attitude is that since winter can bring so many headaches, they just embrace the opportunities they have to get out and play. "When you're having fun, it goes by quicker," said 15-year-old Meredith Julian.

Earlier this month, the statewide trade organization Ski Vermont told NECN that this season is on track to meet or perhaps exceed some of the best seasons on record for skiing and riding in Vermont. Those best seasons have seen more than 4.5 million visits from skiers and snowboarders, Ski Vermont said.

Click here for more information on visiting Vermont for downhill skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing.

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