Montpelier, VT, Dec. 18, 2000--(SAM Magazine) A major storm system dumped up to three inches of rain in the Northeast yesterday, forcing some ski and snowboard operations to close down for at least a day and leaving some low-lying communities anticipating floods. Rain, high winds, and lightning in some places forced early suspensions of operations while late snowstorms and continued high winds conspired to keep some resorts closed today. Meanwhile, a deep freeze gripped parts of the Midwest, feeding media reports of extremely cold and blizzard conditions.
Despite rain that saturated snow and reduced bases by two to four inches in some eastern regions, most operators felt the existing snow held up well, much of it capped off with fresh snow as the temperatures last night dipped below freezing as suddenly as they rose over the weekend. Where snow did not fall, snowmaking was back in full swing this morning as areas were determined to open with good cover for the much-anticipated Christmas holiday.
"The storm had a big effect," said Tom Cottrill of the New England Ski Areas Council. "When you consider Friday was a perfect blue-sky day, Saturday was mediocre, and Sunday we had a tropical downpour, it was a lost weekend."
Jay Peak, Vt., however, was hit by rain on and off Sunday, which turned into snow by this morning that dropped upwards of 10 inches on the mountain. But the resort remained closed today because of high winds. Jay Peak PR Director Chris Veillon called today's interruption "a mere hiccup" in the season. Stratton Mountain reported wind gusts up to 100 miles per hour, conditions normally associated with the summit of Mount Washington, NH, which also saw rain yesterday.
The storm system actually stretched from northern Maine, where Sugarloaf was closed Sunday and today, to Pennsylvania, where resorts were hardest hit overnight Saturday. In Pennsylvania, many resorts delayed opening Sunday until noon and reported snow cover was just about back to Friday depths by this afternoon. In New York, the story was much the same, with rain covering the entire state early Sunday, changing to snow in the late afternoon.
The big, fast-moving storm system pulled warm wet air from as far south as the Gulf of Mexico and forced it up into the colder latitudes over the weekend. Because of the system's size and speed, it pulled cold air in from Canada behind it, equalizing temperatures in a hurry.
In the Mid Atlantic states, rain fell Saturday-reducing bases by two to three inches-but turned to snow on Sunday, with up to six inches falling at Snowshoe, WV Snowshoe is expected to be fully open tomorrow, the first time in its history that the entire mountain will be available for holiday skiers.
Most affected operators seemed to agree that they were happy the storm passed this weekend, leaving forecasters calling for more cold weather this week that will allow snowmaking and grooming crews the opportunity to bounce back in time for the important weekend.
And while rain kept people away in the East, a cold snap in parts of the Midwest had a similar effect. Tom Athmann, skier services manager for Welch Village, Minn., said he felt weather reports kept up to 50 percent of weekend skiers at home this weekend, explaining a resort's distance from a metropolitan center would dictate whether skiers and snowboarders would venture out. But, despite some predictably low numbers at some resorts, he said many resorts were benefiting from good snowmaking weather while others today continued getting snowfall after two significant storms that left a substantial blanket of snow from Ohio to South Dakota.