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February 17, 2014

 

Banner year at ski resorts

Consistent cold, substantial snow bring high attendance, good conditions

BannerJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Kyle Hartquist of Cortland snowboards down Labrador Mountain Saturday in Tully. Business has been brisk at area ski mountains as winter returned with a vengeance this year, compared to its meek showing the last few years.

By STEVEN HOWE
Staff Reporter
showe@cortlandstandardnews.net

VIRGIL — While a cold and snowy winter hasn’t been appreciated by everyone, area ski resorts are excited about conditions and attendance numbers
Greek Peak Mountain Resort owners John Meier and Marc Stemerman were out on the new quad chairlift Friday, preparing to hit the slopes when they talked about a banner year for attendance.
“Unbelievable,” Meier said, of the conditions and attendance at the resort. “We’ve not seen conditions like this at Greek Peak in years.”
For local mountains, the week following Presidents Day is the second biggest of the year, with most schools closed and families using the opportunity for a vacation.
The snowstorm that moved into the area on Thursday dumped over a foot of fresh snow on area mountains, with Labrador Mountain reporting 18 inches.
Heavy snows blanketing much of the East Coast have generated negative national headlines, but they are leading to good skiing conditions. Ski resorts have felt the impact of poor weather the past three winters with below average snowfalls and warmer temperatures.
It has been a season with healthy snowfall totals in Central New York. Syracuse has already received 95.2 inches of snowfall since July; only 72.3 inches fell across the same period last year, according to the National Weather Service. That is already 5.4 inches above average for the year.
About 73 inches of snow have fallen in the city of Cortland, according to Cortland Standard records.
Song Mountain owner Peter Harris said the season has been above average and business on the mountain has been good.
“The year started very early,” Harris said. “Conditions are outstanding. People have been ranting and raving about how good they are.”
What have not been as good for business were the December thaws and polar vortices. Area resorts opened on or near Black Friday, generally a week or more earlier than usual.
“We’ve had some roller coaster thaws around Christmas that were hurtful,” Harris said. “The really super cold temperatures are double-edged; they hurt business and help snow.”
Chilly winter temperatures do help in one aspect — snow making. Labrador Mountain General Manager Eric Wilson said the mountain finished its snowmaking early this year but the extremely cold days have kept some skiers away.
“Actually, attendance has been picking up,” Wilson said. “It is winter, it is cold in the winter.”
Greek Peak’s Stemerman isn’t concerned about conditions with the recent snowfalls and said it’s some of the best skiing he’s seen at the resort in decades. Stemerman and Meier said they’ll be spending the next 10 days with their families at the resort to take advantage of the good skiing.
Meier and Stemerman are glad to have quality conditions for their first ski season as the owners of Greek Peak. The Elmira businessmen purchased the resort in a bankruptcy auction in April and have set about on a number of improvements at the resort.
Included in the multi-million dollar renovation project was a new tuning shop, snow groomers, snow making guns and a brick oven pizza restaurant.
The efforts to upgrade the resort have coincided with the good skiing weather, making for a promising year for the new owners, who have never run a ski resort before.
“We’re here to enjoy these conditions,” Stemerman said. “There’s lots of snow, lots of fun.”
Wilson echoed the sentiment and is anticipating a big week with plenty of visitors.
“Presidents weekend has always been good,” Wilson said. “The skiing is some of the best in the past two to three years.”

 

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