Remember where we were in December?
It wasn’t exactly a rousing start to the 2020-21 skiing and riding season, at least weather-wise. Aside from a mid-month Nor’Easter that spread across the region, it was a tepid month, one also certainly more highlighted by the Christmas warm-up that seriously affected the holiday period.
As of early January, skier visits to Vermont were down 30-70 percent this season, a number that coincided with Vermont’s strict pandemic travel restrictions, as well as the dearth of natural snow. As of mid-January, only 49 percent of the state’s alpine terrain had been open. The five-year average for the same week is 77 percent of alpine terrain open.
Well, here we are, on the cusp of February school vacation, and we have a much different scenario. Snow has almost been a daily consistent in some spots, and temperatures have finally matured enough to provide the environment for proper snowmaking. As Cannon Mountain general manager John DeVivo told me earlier this week, the ski area had been forced to make snow with temperatures in the 20s during January. Ordinarily they would be snowmaking with temps in the teens or single degrees.
Still, during what is Cannon’s final full week of snowmaking, aside from a pair of glade runs, the mountain was fully open. Which means February break is going to get off to a much better start than the last holiday period.
But what’s next?
In any normal season, February break is the final, pivotal stretch on the financial calendar. It’s also the turning point for some ski areas looking toward the end of the season.
Look, you and I both know that March is the best month of the season, weeks filled with sunshine and more snowfall, typically, than any other month in New England. It’s also a month that the ski industry normally fills with parties and events in order to lure crowds to the slopes.
But thanks to COVID precautions, the event calendar is abnormally sparse in 2021, and it remains to be seen what sorts of financial incentive there will be for the resorts to stay open long into the spring months.
The average skier or rider is already looking toward their springtime plans by the time March rolls around, stuffing the skis into the corner closet and taking out the golf clubs for the foreseeable future. The rest of us, of course, know what we’re in for the rest of the way, a blissful period of skiing that were were denied last year with the onset of the pandemic.
But the lack of any spring flings this season may keep the crowds away, and that may force some ski areas to make preemptive decisions on the season. Cutting the cord early can only make business sense if travel restrictions continue to make trips from state-to-state the hassle that it remains.
Cannon has targeted April 12 as its closing date this season. Though, if the mountain is “killing it from a business perspective,” DeVivo said it will stretch things out until April 18. That’s some good news. But it’s hard to imagine other resorts really pushing the limits as they have done in the past. For example, this doesn’t feel like the sort of season where Killington is going to push things into June. Jay Peak, another resort that typically makes a late-push, still won’t have its Canadian business with the border closed. Vail Resorts, which owns the likes of Stowe, Okemo, Attitash, and Wildcat, is always firm with its closing dates, no matter how much snow is left on the mountains.
It’s not like spring skiing is a huge money-maker for the places anyway. Take away the skiers and riders who just can’t get there this season, and it might mean we’re going to see shops closing earlier than we would like.
Then again, one year ago, we were denied the bulk of March. This time around, it’s going to be a pleasure to embrace the best month of skiing once again. For how long? That is going to be the biggest question we face as the weather gets warmer.
Shiffrin is super at worlds
The world Alpine skiing championships finally got underway in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy on Thursday, with Mikaela Shiffrin taking bronze in the super-G, an event the product of Burke Mountain Academy had not run in 382 days.
Shiffrin finished .47 seconds behind Lara Gut-Behrami and Corinne Suter to collect her eighth world championships medal. That ties Lindsey Vonn for the most for an American.
According to NBC, “Shiffrin looked golden at the last intermediate split, where she was .36 ahead of the favorite Gut-Behrami. Soon after, Shiffrin was late on her line and had to correct to make a gate, losing considerable speed for the final six gates and 15 seconds of the course.”
Shiffrin won gold in the same event at the last world championships in 2019.
“It’s a disappointment not to win gold. But after a year of not starting in super-G and some really, really good training in the last two weeks, I was able to ski the way that I wanted to. Even when I made a mistake, I still felt good about my skiing,” Shiffrin said.
The race took place after bad weather had postponed all events since Monday. Check out the rest of the broadcast and streaming schedule here.
Eight-year-old injured after fall from chairlift at Sugarloaf
An eight-year-old girl was injured after falling from a chairlift at Sugarloaf Mountain Resort on Wednesday.
According to the official statement released by the resort, “At roughly 1 p.m. on Wednesday, February 10, an 8-year-old female skier loaded the Snubber lift at Sugarloaf with the assistance of her mother. Immediately after they loaded the lift, lift attendants observed the girl struggling to stay in the chair. The lift attendants stopped the lift, contacted Sugarloaf Ski Patrol, and deployed a ‘catch net’ below the skier, which they used to break her fall when she dropped from the chair. The fall was estimated at roughly 20-25 feet.”
Sugarloaf Ski Patrol responded to the scene within minutes and the girl was conscious and alert while being attended to by patrollers. She complained of pain in her back, but her immediate injuries did not appear life- threatening,. Due to a pre-existing medical condition, the girl was transported to Farmington by ambulance, and was then transported to Eastern Maine Medical Center.
“This was obviously a scary incident for everyone involved, and our thoughts are with the family,” Sugarloaf general manager Karl Strand said. “The safety of our guests is our first priority in everything we do, and I’m incredibly thankful to our lift attendants and ski patrollers, without whose quick actions this incident could have been much worse.”
The skier and her family are from Maine, and she was wearing a helmet at the time of the incident. The Snubber lift is a triple chairlift that services beginner terrain, and features a mid-station load area, where the skier and her mother were loading.
The Sugarloaf Ski Patrol is continuing to investigate the incident.
Catch the latest episode of New England Ski Journal TV
We’ve got the latest episode of New England Ski Journal TV, hosted by Meredith Gorman, featuring segments on Bretton Woods, Jay Peak Resort and Burke Mountain. Click above to watch. Catch an all-new episode on NESN Feb. 19 at 9:30 p.m.