March 4, 2024

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Warmer, Faster, Snowier: What New Upgrades Mean for East Coast Skiing

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Despite a mediocre snow season last year, the Northeast measured more than 13 million skier visits, its strongest showing in eight years. Much of that interest was driven, no doubt, by the increasing use of multi-mountain passes, with skiers and boarders enjoying late-season snowfall as well as recent snow-making and infrastructure investments.

There are more upgrades this coming season, as resorts from New York to Maine bristle with new chairlifts, more efficient snow guns, renovated midslope restaurants and more. Here is a guide to the year’s most notable ski resort enhancements in the Northeastern United States.

Ski resorts pepper Vermont’s hills and mountains, from one-lift operations like Brattleboro Ski Hill to Killington, with 1,509 skiable acres across six peaks. Vermont’s topography — lots of terrain near 4,000 feet — creates the best snow conditions in the East, as does its geography: a northern mountain ridge running parallel to Lake Champlain hosts the state’s highest peaks and the East’s snowiest resorts: Stowe, Smugglers’ Notch and Jay Peak, all of which average about 300 inches of snowfall per winter.

But even in Vermont, snow-making has become imperative. In its northern reaches, Burke Mountain has invested in new pipes and increased water pressure to upgrade its snow-making, as has Mad River Glen, whose co-op bylaws allow snow-making only on the lower 700 feet of the mountain’s 2,037-foot vertical drop. (The bylaws are an effort to preserve what the ski area calls “one of the last bastions of natural snow skiing in New England.”)

The snow-making upgrades in Vermont and elsewhere are being made with an eye toward climate change, to be sure, but they also include more efficient pumps and snow guns, said Bryan Rivard, director of communications at the trade association Ski Vermont. “The target of doing things more efficiently checks both boxes of being better for the environment and better for business.”

The two Colorado-based resort conglomerates, Vail and Alterra, acquired many of the East’s best-known mountains in recent years and are using multi-mountain-pass sales to shore up snow-making at these eastern properties. Sugarbush, owned by Alterra, will spend $12.6 million in the 12 months beginning in August of this year, upgrading its operations, including $3 million on snow-making and a new quad lift. The lift, replacing the Heaven’s Gate triple, will be less susceptible to wind shutdowns.

In southern and central Vermont, where natural snow isn’t as plentiful, Okemo now has 98 percent of its terrain covered by snow-making. Bromley Mountain and Killington have also improved their snow-making, while Pico Mountain overhauled its snow-making pump house, doubling its outflow and adding 25 new snow guns. Magic Mountain, in addition to installing a long-awaited, top-to-bottom four-person lift, doubled its snow-making capacity. Stratton spent $6.9 million during the off-season improving its beginner area with regraded slopes, new surface lifts and, as the ski pass wicket continues to fade into history, touchless RFID gates.

Smaller mountains have also made moves, with Middlebury Snowbowl replacing its Sheehan chairlift with a new quad that will increase uphill capacity by 20 percent, and adding night-skiing capabilities to several runs.

Maine doesn’t get Vermont’s snow, but it has some well-shaped mountains with substantial vertical drops for the East Coast.

Sunday River, one of Maine’s most popular mountains, now has almost two miles of pipe for snow-making operations, part of an effort that has tripled available water for the resort’s Jordan Bowl. The resort’s new Barker 6 lift will treat six skiers per chair to heated seats and a ride that is 30 percent faster than the old lift. Sugarloaf will add 120 acres of new terrain anchored by a high-speed quad called the Bucksaw Express.

Also in Maine, the private-equity-owned Saddleback Mountain will open a midmountain lodge. Since the resort reopened in 2020, it has spent around $30 million on upgrades that include major snow-making infrastructure

New Hampshire has perhaps the best-known backcountry run in all of North America, in Mount Washington’s Tuckerman Ravine. But the state also has a bevy of resort improvements for people who prefer taking a chairlift.

Attitash Mountain Resort is replacing its Summit Triple chair with a new high-speed quad, the Mountaineer, which will cut the time spent riding up to eight minutes, from 18. The name comes from a historic local railway. Loon Mountain’s new chair, Timbertown Quad, will serve 30 acres of new beginner and intermediate terrain that will largely be covered by automated snow-making.

Cranmore Mountain Resort is opening its 30,000-square-foot Fairbank Lodge and a slope-side bar. The Vail-owned Mount Sunapee built a ski-through lighthouse in a nod to the three lighthouses on Lake Sunapee. State-owned Cannon Mountain will rebuild its 2,180-vertical-foot tramway, one of the few in the East, after the state approved $18 million in appropriations for it.

New York winters can be fickle, but the state has long had a knack for cutting ski runs in any terrain available. From Whiteface’s escarpments to the gentle runs of Swain Resort, New York has more ski hills than any other state and this year no shortage of off-season improvements, including new lifts.

Gore Mountain replaced its Bear Cub surface lift, which serviced the hill’s beginner area, with a quad chair that includes a loading conveyor — it automatically moves skiers into position for loading. Popular in the Alps, conveyor systems are ideal for beginners. The Notch, a new high-speed quad at Whiteface, will get skiers from beginner terrain up to two different unloading locations. Whiteface also installed 150 new snow guns.

Holiday Valley’s Mardi Gras Express, a new six-person high-speed chair, replaces a four-person lift at a high-traffic point on the mountain. The lift replacement is part of $9 million in offseason improvements, including the renovation of 35 of 102 rooms at the Inn, and more automated snow-making. Belleayre replaced its aging Chair 7, a triple, with a new quad chair, and installed five miles of new snow-making pipe and 255 new snow guns.

More than 15 other ski destinations enhanced snow-making, including Catamount Mountain Resort, which built two new pump houses and installed 50 new snow guns supplied by an expanded snow-making pond. Greek Peak Mountain Resort replaced its snow-making pumps to give it the capacity to cover 16 football fields with a foot of snow in 24 hours.

Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram and sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to get expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places to Go in 2023.



Christopher Steiner

2023-12-07 10:00:53

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