Two New England resorts welcomed skiers and riders Monday for the destinations' opening days for the 2014-2015 season. Killington Resort in Vermont and Sunday River in Maine both launched operations, thrilling guests who had been eager for the return of cold weather. "We get pretty excited about skiing," said Mary Homkey of Lake George, New York, a season pass holder at Killington.
Killington's opening Monday was only for season pass holders and express card holders, and featured limited trail access from the top of the mountain to mid-mountain in areas served by the K-1 Gondola and a nearby walkway. Day passes for skiing and riding at Killington start Tuesday, the resort said. "It's my first time being at the first day of the mountain," beamed 11-year-old Johnny Verdon of Middletown Springs, Vermont.
At Sunday River, anyone who arrived to the mountain in a costume Monday got a free pass, the resort said. In a news release, Sunday River said its Locke Mountain Triple opened Monday morning for access to its T2 trail. Both Sunday River and Killington said snowmaking upgrades during the off-season made their early starts possible.
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In Vermont, 15 resorts traded in old snow guns for the newest technology this year, according to the trade association Ski Vermont. That amounted to about $19-million in snowmaking improvements across the resorts, the group said, the largest ever single-year improvement in snowmaking.
Killington Resort president Mike Solimano said through installing the new guns, the resort anticipates using 10 percent less compressed air to blow the same snow, meaning, savings on diesel and electricity. "So for us, saving there is good for the environment and good for our bottom line," Solimano told New England Cable News.
The 2014-2015 ski season follows two consecutive winters that saw nearly-identical visitor totals at Vermont resorts, of just over 4.5-million, Ski Vermont said. Those ranked as some of the best years on record, Ski Vermont president Parker Riehle noted. Vermont is the most-visited state for skiing and riding in the East, according to Ski Vermont.
"Pass sales have been very strong, and we're also hearing that retail sales--skis and boots and everything that goes along with the skiing experience-- have also been very strong, so that bodes well for a really strong season," Riehle said of the start of the 2014-15 season.
Skiers and riders can expect a flurry of other resort openings in time for Thanksgiving, with the first really critical stretch of the season coming the week after Christmas.