Still Skiing: Deep powder, big crowds rock Memorial Day weekend - SNEWS

Still Skiing: Deep powder, big crowds rock Memorial Day weekend

The unbelievable winter keeps rolling on at ski areas such as Snowbird, Alpine Meadows and Aspen. And as new snow continues to fall, and skiers keep buying lift tickets, could we still set a record for skier visits? SNEWS takes a look.

OK, now this is getting ridiculous. So much snow kept falling through the Memorial Day Weekend at ski areas from California to Colorado, that some folks are joking next month should be renamed “June-uary” in light of the deep wintry conditions at their home resorts.

“Almost 4,000 (people) hit the slopes and rode the gondola over the three day weekend,” reported Tiana Enger, marketing director at Crystal Mountain Resort. The Washington State ski area set its own all-time snowfall record of 600-inches on March 27, 2011 (the previous record was 592-inches, set during the 1998/1999 season) and, according to Enger, “We will remain open for skiing on weekends until the snow melts!” 

So much snow keeps falling in Colorado, that Aspen actually re-opened for Memorial Day Weekend. Jeff Hanle, the Aspen Skiing Company’s director of communications told SNEWS® that once the lifts were turning again, the skiers came out. “We had a huge turnout on Saturday and Sunday,” Hanle said, adding that each day there were between 1,700 and 1,800 skiers on the slopes. “Monday was much slower, though, with colder temperatures and some new snow.”

Hanle said the decision about re-opening for further weekends is completely weather-contingent, but he thinks “we have at least two more weekends in us.” For those resorts still open in California and Utah, the decision on how deep to take it has already been made--this ski season will end on July 4th. At Alpine Meadows, where nearly one foot of new snow fell over the holiday weekend, that call was made weeks ago. Now, nearby Squaw Valley USA also plans to open for the 4th of July Weekend, and announced on May 30 that they plan to operate five chairlifts. 

In Utah, Snowbird also has announced plans to stay open until the 4th. Another 10 new inches of snow on May 29, made that decision even easier to make. “We have been having a record-breaking season," Snowbird communication manager Emily Moench told Utah’s KSL TV. “We've almost broken the record for total snowfall by nearly 100 inches and it's still coming.”

In Wyoming, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort closed for the season the first weekend in April with total snowfall of 557 inches at the summit of Rendezvous Peak. More than 150 additional inches of snow has fallen since then. And when the area re-opened its iconic tram for the summer season on May 28, almost all of the ticket buyers were skiers, all looking for a quick lift to out-of-bounds skiing up top. 

“Skiing was popular this weekend,” JHMR's Zahan Billimoria told SNEWS. But he added that the area did not actually track the traffic as skier days as “we aren’t doing any promotion as all the skiing is out of the gates--inbounds is closed.”

So with winter still keeping its grip at so many areas, is there a chance the ski industry might push far enough past its second best-ever season numbers of 60.1 million skier visits to break the all-time record 60.5 million record mark. National Ski Areas Association President Michael Berry doesn’t think so, but said the industry will take all the free marketing the late snow can generate. 

“It is all good stuff,” Berry said. “While I don’t think it will push us into record territory it keeps the sport top of mind. “And I don’t remember the season going this late particularly in Colorado, even in California where it is more common, the conditions were said to be mid-winter (right now).”

--Peter Kray

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