Late-season storms have buoyed conditions at many Western resorts, but this recent largesse doesn’t appear to be enough to keep slopes open beyond announced closing dates.
Most resort officials contacted by SnoCountry.com said that the end of the season is mostly a function of how many people still want to ski and ride – versus if the conditions are still stellar.
“When you are dependent on destination skiers (not being close to a metro area), even with really good snow, no one is on the slopes,” said Adrianna Blake at Taos Ski Valley. “For us, if it is 85 (degrees) in Dallas, no one is thinking skiing. Pass holders will still ski some, but even they are pretty over it, in our experience, by the beginning of April.”
In Colorado, a series of healthy storms in late February and March helped a bottomline depressed by a below-average snowfall start. However, the improved conditions weren’t enough to offset the poor beginning; Colorado Ski Country USA reported a 4.2 percent decline in skier-visits as of the end of February.
“Spring break business is encouraging, as are lodging numbers, and the Easter holiday is well positioned for late season visitors,” said Melanie Mills, CEO of the industry promoter.
Resorts that traditionally stay open past April are sticking to their guns. Arapahoe Basin, Colo. says it will turn its bullwheels until June 2 -- weather depending -- despite a season that saw midway base depths below 50 inches until recently. Snowbird, Utah, which has a record year in 2011-2012, is set to stay open until May 27. So is Timberline Lodge, Ore. on the glaciers of Mt. Hood, although it runs ski and snowboard camps all summer long. And, Mt. Bachelor, Ore. should be open until May 27, and Mammoth Mountain, Calif. until May 31.
But Colorado's Silverton Mountain, renowned for its backcountry 'pow', won’t run its lone lift beyond April 14, according to Jen Brill at the area.
“It’s lack of business (that dictates closing),” Brill told SnoCountry.com. “Everyone wants to golf, boat and bike. For about 10 years we were open until the end of April with only a few skiers coming. It is never the snow.”
Northwest Resorts May Extend
There’s been plenty of snow in the Northwest this season, and several resorts hope to push their seasons beyond initial closing times.
“Our scheduled closing date is Sunday, April 14,” Cindy Jackson, at Stevens Pass, told SnoCountry.com: “We may extend by up to three weekends. We have not made the decision on whether to extend yet. It will be based on all or a combination of conditions, forecast and guest visitation holding strong.”
For the troika of mountains at Summit at Snoqualmie in the state of Washington, the closing date is more flexible than others. While two of the three shut down, Alpental is often the closing date-buster.
“To be honest, we never announce a closing date because historically we play it by ear depending on conditions and business level/customer energy,” said Guy Lawrence at the resort. “We are known as a resort that pushes on well after most other resorts close for the season. At that point we are just operating at Alpental as it holds the snow best out of all our areas. We have a lot of pass holders and we like to give them a good spring session before ending the season.”
So while the vast majority of Western mountains go dark by the end of April, there are a few holdovers that can help satisfy the jones of late-season skiers or riders.
Photos Arapahoe Basin