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Snow Machines Churning in New England


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Canton, MA, Dec. 25 (AP by Jean McMillan)–There’s no major snowfall across New England so far today, so ski resort owners are taking matters into their own hands.

Resorts have fired up their snowmaking machines in hopes of meeting “white Christmas” guarantees that would help make up for a slow start to the ski season.

“There isn’t much we can do,” said Stanley Beers, whose Blue Hills ski area in Massachusetts was empty Friday.

The Boston area has set a record this year for its lack of snow. As of Friday, no measurable snow had fallen at Logan International Airport for 284 days. The old record, set last year, was 274 days.

Portland, Maine, typically gets 17 inches of snow in December and 70.9 inches all season. Only trace amounts have fallen so far.

There was little or no snow in the forecast for the holiday weekend.

Six New England resorts owned by American Skiing Co. still were offering a guarantee for a white Christmas, complete with vouchers and future price reductions.

The guarantee kicks in if the ski areas don’t have at least 70 percent of the terrain open for skiing over the holidays, said Les Otten, who heads the company.

American Skiing officials said they believed the manmade snow would help meet the 70 percent mark at their resorts, which include Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine; Killington, Sugarbush and Mount Snow in Vermont; and Attitash Bear Peak in New Hampshire.

They were most upbeat at Killington, Vermont’s largest ski area, where 61 inches of natural snow has fallen.

But other places in New England haven’t been so lucky. In Locke Mills, Maine, Mount Abrams Ski Resort’s snow guns have been operating around the clock and have put down 2 to 4 feet on open trails. The amount of natural snow is viewed as almost comical.

“We’ve had 1 1/2 inches. That’s it,” said owner Randy Dunican. “It’s unbelievable.”

The scarcity of snow has meant slow business for the Powder Ridge Ski Resort in Middletown, Conn.

With man-made snow on a few trails, the ski area opened for business after the Thanksgiving weekend. But a burst of warm weather and rain shut it down after about four days. General Manager Rich Satagaj said a cold snap about two weeks ago allowed the resort to reopen.

Three of the 15 Powder Ridge trails were open on Friday.

“We’re making powder and it’s pretty good skiing,” Satagaj said. “But you need real snow to really get people out.”

Copyright (c) 1999 The Associated Press