Hoping for Cold and Snow, Vermont Resort Unveils $90M in Upgrades

This week's rain and mild temperatures were tough on resorts, but could not dampen spirits

Following a roaring start to the 2016-2017 ski season in Vermont, resorts are facing challenging conditions this week from rain, fog, and a warm-up in temperatures.

However, following a strong season kickoff from natural snow in time for Thanksgiving, and national attention from women's World Cup ski races at Killington Resort this weekend, the industry is taking the imperfect weather in stride.

"We're already far better off than we were last year," said Parker Riehle of Ski Vermont, describing the 2015-2016 season, which saw very little natural snowfall and consistently mild temperatures. "In terms of a solid Thanksgiving weekend, good buzz on social media, and great PR from the World Cup, we're in great shape going into this winter, which really hasn't even started yet."

At the Stowe Mountain Resort Wednesday, skiers and riders expressed excitement at the start of another season.

"I try to come three times a week," said University of Vermont senior Amy Garland, from Peterborough, New Hampshire. "Best part of my week!"

The mid-week warm-up did press the pause button for another resort. Mount Snow announced online that mountain operations would have to wait for better weather and terrain conditions.

"The key word this time of year, no matter what's happening, is optimism," said Jeff Wise of Stowe Mountain Resort.

Wise said the temperatures this week have, of course, impacted snowmaking at Stowe, too, but he remained hopeful for a record season, thanks to $90-million in resort upgrades unveiled in time for the winter season.

The upgrades include a new skating rink, and, inside the Spruce Peak Adventure Center, climbing walls for people of varying ages and skill levels, restaurants, and kid-focused offerings.

A business benefit, the resort said, to opening the adventure center was getting a chance to tell visitors their trips will be better insulated from some of the ups and downs of winter weather.

"Having weather-proof things to do, like the ice skating and the adventure center, with the activities that happen in there and everything around the resort, it certainly completes that experience for people, even if the skiing isn't great," Wise told necn. "But our goal is to provide a really awesome experience for people on the mountain and while they're just hanging out in the Spruce Peak village center."

Ski Vermont pointed to a benchmark study from the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing that put direct consumer spending during winter at more than $900-million, cementing ski and ride visits as a major part of the state's economy.

Riehle said the industry is still riding high from the first World Cup ski races in Vermont in nearly 40 years this past weekend at Killington, predicting the high-level attention from that event will encourage travelers to consider Vermont as a winter destination.

"That's the kind of event that puts us literally on the world map — the world globe — of exposure," Riehle said. "The payoff will be weeks, months, and years to come."

Riehle said the good news for Vermont's ski resorts is that after this weather system moves through, a stretch of significantly colder weather is in the forecast, meaning more opportunities for round-the-clock snowmaking.

For more information on skiing, riding, and cross-country skiing in Vermont, visit the website of Ski Vermont.

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