For much of the nation, last year was the ski season that never was, thanks to warm weather and disappointing snowfalls. But early booking data, combined with encouraging snowfalls, are putting a rosier glow on this year’s visitor forecast.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming, for example, is crowing about the 15 inches of powder that fell over the Dec. 8 weekend, bringing the early-season snow totals to 126 inches.
“The conditions are fantastic,” said Jerry Blann, president of Jackson Hole. “The snow from earlier this week and last created a created a great base, and this most recent storm came in cold and windy, making for … perfect cowboy powder.”
Because of the robust snow, the resort was able to open the Aerial Tram, Sublette and Thunder chairlifts, giving skiers and snowboarders top-to-bottom access to 4,139 vertical feet of terrain.
The seven ski resorts in Lake Tahoe also received an early gift from Santa, with more than 100 inches of snowfall already this season and summit base depths of up to 5 feet.
“This season the resorts are in especially great shape with … great snow conditions,” said Julie Maurer, president of Ski Lake Tahoe, noting that the resorts are more or less guaranteeing a white Christmas and are decking out the slopes accordingly, with Santa appearances and seasonal decorations and festivities.
Colorado’s Crested Butte Mountain Resort is breathing a sigh of relief after 7 inches of snow fell Dec. 9, which could bode well for the busy holiday season.
“With 7 inches on the [mountain] at this time and a great snowmaking forecast through next weekend, it looks like our luck is about to change,” said Chris Corliss, mountain manager at Crested Butte.
To celebrate the occasion, Crested Butte is offering a Ski Free With Lodging package that includes a ski day for everyone staying at participating lodging properties. The special is only good through Dec. 19, but other deals are available throughout the season.
On the East Coast, Vermont has seen some snow, but the real boost has come from cold temperatures that have made it possible to open about 20% of the state’s terrain by early December. To put it in perspective, this represents the strongest season opening since 2008-2009.
“The resorts’ investments in state-of-the-art, highly efficient snowmaking combined with early-season snowfall have given us the boost we need to fulfill the pent-up demand of skiers and riders,” Ski Vermont President Parker Riehle said, predicting a strong early season.
Overall, Vermont ski areas have reported some record early openings, including Killington Resort, Smugglers’ Notch and Jay Peak. In addition, Jay Peak is averaging a 93% occupancy across all of its lodging properties with most holidays already sold out.
American Express Travel is reporting a boost in both air and hotel ski bookings so far this year compared with this time last year. International air bookings for ski vacations are up 29% over last year; 13% for domestic air. Ski hotel bookings are up by more than 17% internationally and 10% domestically.
So what is the overall prediction for the season? We don’t like to stick our neck out, but according to the almanac, the prognosis is mixed, with cold weather on the East Coast of the U.S., warmer temperatures in the West and potentially good snow conditions on both coasts in Canada. For a look at the almanac online, click here