BOSTON -- "Even the artificial snow is melting," lamented Gerry
Korten, owner of East West Travel in Natick, Mass. With
temperatures climbing to the 70s in Northeast ski areas, Korten and
other agents are losing business as winter sports enthusiasts spend
more time holiday shopping than skiing.
Normal holiday and weekend bookings to New England ski resorts
have fallen off drastically, Korten said.
Tom Keefe, owner of Addison Travel in Andover, Mass., agreed.
"We are booking February vacations, but the weather has affected
impulse travel," he said. "I like to joke that after the first
storm, people are still dickering price, but after the second and
third storms, they open the door and throw the credit card in." Ski
bookings are being directed to the West, Keefe said, an area that
is experiencing plentiful snowfalls.
Korten said sales of upscale family packages in ski-in/ski-out
condominiums in the Rockies every year are less hurt by warm
weather because many clients book far in advance.
While air fares make packages to the Rockies and west more
lucrative for New England agents, the higher cost can scare off
clients. "When there is air fare, it becomes a money issue, and,
therefore, too expensive for some people," Keefe said.
So far, that hasn't been a problem for Irene Ross, owner of Ross
Travel in Boston. "We have a family from San Francisco going to
Switzerland to ski and a local family of five going to Park City,
Utah," she said. Ross, who handles a tony clientele in Beantown,
said that weekend jaunts to Vermont and other New England winter
destinations are the first to suffer during unseasonal heat
But while some retailers are gloomy, the situation is far from
irreparable, according to suppliers. At press time, resorts already
were predicting a cold snap, according to Skip King, vice president
of communications for the American Skiing company. "We expect to be
making snow by tomorrow, and we should have all major trails open
by the holidays," King said.
Thanks to state-of-the-art snowmaking equipment, it only takes a
foot of snow and two or three freezing nights to open more than
half a mountain, according to Steve Hewins, owner of Portland,
Maine-based Best of New England Vacations. The company packages and
sells ski to the American Skiing Co. resorts in New England, which
include such well-known resorts as Killington, Vt., and Sunday
In fact, the situation can turn around so quickly that sports
enthusiasts may find themselves in an unusually good position for
the upcoming holidays. "There is some availability for the
Christmas vacation period, and that is unusual for this time of
year," Hewins said.
Noting that people tend not to book ski unless there is snow in
their own backyards -- regardless of what may be optimum conditions
in the mountains -- the lag to buy ski vacations might continue
well into the early season, he said. If so, agents might have more
accommodations to offer during what usually are tough-to-book peak
Hewins noted that late-season thaws are less damaging than
early-season meltdowns because by then resorts have accumulated
several feet of base snow to fall back on. "March is becoming more
popular than ever in New England because the sun is higher and the
days are longer," he said. "Because there is a good base by then,
you don't get the bare or icy spots that used to characterize New