Burlington, Vt. Jan. 7, 2003--It's truly been feast or famine for Eastern skiers in the past three seasons. The winter of 2001-02 was one of the most memorable big-snow years for all the ages. Last year was memorable only for what we'd rather forget. And so far this season, it's a feast fit for powder kings.
After back-to-back dumps, notable not just for their quantity, but for their quality and good timing, Northeast ski areas are off to one of their best and snowiest starts ever, with more cold temps and snow showers in the forecast.
The Christmas dump was fickle, blessing southern tier resorts with prodigious amounts, up to 30 inches in places, while starving the northern resorts (1 inch in Burlington, Vt.). Places like Killington and Mt. Snow, already enjoying cold temperatures and great snowpack, were crowing about the best skiing in two years, while the northern slopes made due with merely good conditions. The Jan. 3-4 storm, however, was far more democratic. All but the very northernmost resorts got walloped.
Some totals: 24 inches at Mt. Snow and Killington, Vt.; 20 inches at Sugarbush and Mad River Glen; 18 inches at Bolton Valley. Stowe, which is skiing on an honest 3-5-foot base depth, got 22-26, bringing its seasonal total to 150 inches—well on the way to the seasonal average of 250, and it's not even mid-January.
In New Hampshire, the ski hubs of Jackson and North Conway reported over a foot each, with the southern resorts again faring even better than the northern ones.
Sugarloaf, Maine, reported 14-16 inches from the latest dump. Virtually all of its terrain is open, though the legendary snowfields will require another dump yet. Sunday River received a similar amount.
Even the southern New England resorts, which were pounded particularly hard by the Christmas storm, have gotten into the act and are reporting 100-percent-open trail counts.
Nor was the recent storm the usual Eastern dump: "a foot of snow and two feet of wind" (or worse: 12 inches of powder and a half-inch of rain). It arrived with barely a breath of wind and has been followed by seasonal temperatures and persistent mountain flurries. What's more, it was a weekend warrior's delight, arriving late Friday night, after drive time, and departing well before the Sunday afternoon exodus.
Not that everyone left on Sunday. The skiing was too good. "I noticed a lot people playing hooky from work and staying an extra day," reports Sugarloaf's Cheryl Fullerton. Don't worry: She's not naming names.
But the powder hounds who had the best time of anyone may have been those who got there for first chair at Stowe. They enjoyed a virtually empty mountain for about two hours after a collision of town snowplows temporarily closed the Mountain Road. Said one fully sated powder pig who was still nursing sore muscles on Monday: "It was like heli-skiing on the Front Four."