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Technology Allows Vermont Ski Resorts to Rebound From Lost Snow

The state’s skiing and riding destinations have made big investments in snowmaking technology over the past several years

Vermont’s skiing and riding industry say the past week has demonstrated the strong capabilities of resorts to recover from challenging weather conditions.

Less than a week ago, mountains grappled with widespread melting from heavy rain and warmer-than-normal temperatures, which arrived just before the major Christmas vacation week.

Despite that, resorts have said they bounced back quickly, thanks to upgrades in technology.

“Every day is an adventure in this industry,” said Mike Chait of Smugglers’ Notch Resort. “When we have these storms that come through, and they give us a wide variety of conditions, all we look for is the cold on the back side—because we know we can fire up this system and do our job.”

Vermont ski areas have invested nearly $70-million in snowmaking improvements over the past five years, according to the trade group Ski Vermont.

The organization recently outlined in a blog post several examples of approaches Vermont resorts have employed to rebound from challenging weather situations.

At Okemo Mountain Resort, for example, there is a new multi-million dollar snowmaking plan dubbed “Operation Snowburst” which saw upgrades to water pumping and piping systems and the addition of energy-efficient tower guns.

Ski Vermont also described how Mount Snow uses a strategy to stockpile snow in huge mounds, then spread it on trails where needed.

And Killington Resort unveiled a new system capable of fast responses to lost snow, which Ski Vermont described as essentially creating a “man-made blizzard.”

“Under ideal conditions, Killington’s snowmaking system delivers 10-million gallons of water per day to more than 250 snow guns, covering 60 acres with 12 inches of fresh snow every 24 hours,” Courtney DiFiore of Killington Resort said in the Ski Vermont blog post.

At Smuggs, a sophisticated pumping network draws water from the Lamoille River, sending it to high-efficiency guns. Snowmaking supervisor Tyler Hall and his team tweak the air pressure from the guns to get the results they’re looking for.

“So we can just try and put back what we lost,” Hall said. “It’s great to see people enjoy the snow that we make.”

Hall said modern snowmaking equipment is easier to deploy, making mountains nimbler and better able to react to sudden weather changes.

Dana Balejko and her family, who were vacationing at Smugglers’ Notch Resort from Holliston, Massachusetts, said they noticed the efforts since the rain and melting late last week.

“We’ve gotten a ton of skiing in,” Balejko said. “There’s a ton of snowmaking–I think they’ve done a good job.”

Chait said the resort stays glued to the forecast; ready to plan a rebound to weather headaches if need be.

While there’s still more time in this holiday week, Vermont resorts are already planning for their next big stretches. Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day, and the February school vacation weeks are all critical for the skiing and riding industry.

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