Warm Weather Hurt Nordic Ski Season

03/13/02 12:00AM By Steve Zind

(Host) The mildest winter on record and continued drought conditions have combined to make for a difficult season at Vermont's Nordic ski areas.

VPR's Steve Zind surveyed some of the state's cross-country centers.


(Zind) When there's too little snow on the slopes, alpine ski areas simply turn on the snow guns to make up for a lack of natural snow. But Nordic skiers are at the mercy of nature. This winter, nature hasn't been merciful to cross country enthusiasts. John Wiggins is with the Woodstock Ski Touring Center:

(Wiggins) "I've been here actually 30 years and my assessment is this is just about the worst winter we've had. We missed Christmas and we missed a bit of January and what we did have, as far as having powder, packed powder conditions, we may have had that four days."

(Zind) Wiggins says the lack of ski days has also cut into his sales of cross-country equipment, which can account for almost a third of the center's gross income.

The Craftsbury Outdoor Center is at the other end of the spectrum. Nick Trautz says Craftsbury has been in full operation all winter and they're still open:

(Trautz) "I think generally it's been quite good. Despite the lack of snow in Boston or south of here, people were pretty good about researching and finding out that we did have skiing. So business is good."

(Zind) Trautz says a lot of Craftsbury's business comes from out of state. Cross-country areas that rely on area skiers had a harder time. Eric Bowker is with the Catamount Family Center in Williston:

(Bowker) "At times, we actually had pretty good skiable snow and when we did it was hard to convince people that that was what we had."

(Zind) Bowker says reluctant skiers and a shorter season combined for an 80% drop in business from last year. Just up the road is the Sleepy Hollow Lodge and Ski Center in Huntington.

(Enman) (laughs) "We're all closed down!"

(Zind) Eli Enman says Sleepy Hollow closed more than a month earlier than last year. The center managed to stay open for the full season and that helped the bottom line:

(Enman) "But if I were to guess, I'd say we had 80% of the visits we had last year."

(Zind) Chuck Black runs the Wild Wings Ski Touring Center in the southern Vermont town of Peru.

(Black) "When I've been open, I've been pleased with the numbers of skiers that I had."

(Zind) Black says the lack of snow means Wild Wings hasn't been open for much of the season, including the holidays. Christmas normally accounts for up to a quarter of his business. In contrast, Black says last year the season went on and on. At some point he simply closed up shop and left on a planned family vacation:

(Black) "Last year we closed on March 28, not because I didn't have any snow but because we had planned to leave and we just left. I can't afford to leave now!" (laughs)

(Zind) While many of Vermont cross-country areas are closed for the moment, they said they'd be up and running in the event of a March snowstorm.

For Vermont Public Radio, I'm Steve Zind.
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