New England’s Snow Business
New Hampshire ski areas are gearing up for a big year—whether it snows or not.
Last winter was an awful one for skiers. Record-low levels of snow fell in the region. Resorts worked overtime making snow, which allowed them to keep their main slopes open, but getting people even to think of skiing without snow in their backyards proved to be a daunting challenge. With no white winter in Boston last year, the number of visitors to ski areas in the Northeast fell almost 21 percent, the worst single-season decline in two decades.
Fortunately for the industry, demand is back up. So far this year, season-ticket sales are as good as they were last year, and in some cases they’re even better. Skiers and resorts are ready to go, in other words, and now everybody’s on the lookout for early signs of snow. “Anything that says, ‘Yes, sir, that’s the sign of a snowy winter,’” says Jay Gamble, vice president and general manager of New Hampshire’s Mount Sunapee, “we’re onto it.” Encouragingly, there’s evidence (see below) that a barren season often precedes a bountiful one.
But even if Boston isn’t covered in white this year, resorts will have plenty of trails open, and they’re eager to get the word out to people who might assume that no snow in the city means no good skiing up north. That’s why New Hampshire’s Cannon Mountain this past September signed on with ClaimMyRun (claimmyrun.com), a Santa Fe-based startup that, with the help of skiers wearing helmet cams, creates trail maps showing real-time conditions on the slopes. Cannon is the first ski area in the region to adopt the technology. “People want to know it’s wintertime,” says Greg Keeler, director of sales and marketing. “The more you can show them the better, and they’re bound to listen to their friends more than just Greg from Cannon.”
Coming up with innovative new ways to attract skiers is important, and no doubt other ski areas will try similar tactics to get the word out about conditions on the slopes. But as Karl Stone, Ski New Hampshire’s marketing director, says, “We can do those things all we want, but there’s no way it’s going to be as effective as getting a foot of fresh snow in Boston.”
LET IT SNOW
Last season was a dud, but lucky for us, annual snowfall patterns from 2000 forward suggest that we can probably expect plenty of snow on the slopes this year. —Rebecca Santiago