MONTPELIER, Vt. – Ski areas in the Northeast continue to pump millions of dollars in new high-tech snowmaking to draw early season skiers and riders and to ensure their slopes will remain snowy into the spring.
An early cold snap allowed resorts from Vermont to Maine to fire up snow guns in the beginning of November.
New Hampshire's Loon Mountain opened Nov. 8, its earliest top-to-bottom opening ever, thanks to a $1.3 million investment to revamp its snowmaking.
"This season, we opened about 10 days early which is really big for us," said spokesman Greg Kwasnik.
In Vermont, Okemo, Mount Snow and Bromley Mountain are among the resorts that opened in mid-November.
"It's the earliest opening that I can remember, and I've been here 40 years," Bromley President Bill Cairns said.
Stowe Mountain Resort continues its major snowmaking revamp spending another $3.4 million on new equipment and upgrades, including 100 tower guns, three fan guns and miles of snowmaking pipe. That's on top of $4.7 million spent last year.
Maine's two biggest resorts — Sugarloaf and Sunday River — have installed hundreds of new energy efficient snow guns for this season, on top of big investments in equipment in recent years.
The new high efficiency, low-energy equipment allows the resorts to keep the slopes covered at a fraction of the energy costs, eliminating the need for thousands of gallons of diesel fuel.
Aside from more snow, skiers and riders will notice new lodging, terrain parks and glade offerings at some resorts.
Big changes to the tune of $43 million are on the ground at Jay Peak in northern Vermont near the Canadian border, including an 80,000-square-foot (7,430-square-meter) Stateside Hotel and base lodge and 84 new mountain cottages.
Sunday River in Maine has added a new 15-acre (6-hectare) terrain park including a jump line, super pipe, and rail park. And Sugarloaf has expanded its back-country-style terrain by 70 more acres (28 hectares) and added a new 30-person outdoor hot tub to its Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel.
And this December holiday season at Loon Mountain skiers and riders can visit an ice castle made out of a lattice work of icicles. It's expected to be open to the public over the December holiday.
"The walls are going to be between 25 and 45 feet (8 to 14 meters) high," Kwasnik said.