Friday December 28, 2012

Hundreds of skiers hit the local slopes Thursday -- and thousands are expected by the weekend -- to take advantage of the season’s first significant snowfall.

Area ski resorts say the 8 to 10 inches of natural snow that blanketed their mountains were the boost they needed this Christmas week, traditionally one of the busiest of the ski season.

"The timing couldn’t be better -- like getting a late Christmas present," said Sherry Roberts, general manager at Bousquet Ski Area in Pittsfield. "The ski instructors were busy all day, and lines began forming early for the night skiing."

Brian Fairbank, CEO of Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort in Hancock, said he expected a "blockbuster" night of skiing on Thursday that would carry over for the rest of Christmas week.

"We should have a strong day [today] and a great weekend," he said. "This is a white gift toward helping the ski areas recover from last year."

Fairbank was referring to the virtually snowless winter of 2011-12. The milder-than-normal temperatures and lack of natural snow ruined the mood for many skiers -- despite ski areas’ abilities to make snow.

The real white stuff always boosts attendance, according to Jamie Carr, general manager at Otis Ridge Ski Area in Otis.

"We’re off to a slow start with no natural snow, but this [storm] will help a lot," Carr said. "[Today] and the weekend is when we will see the benefits of the snow."

While the storm kept some skiers at bay on Thursday because of slippery road conditions, ski areas are expecting good business for the rest of the week.

"[Today] should be busier," said Matt Sawyer, the director of marketing at Ski Butternut in Great Barrington. "It’s going to be partly sunny, [and] the roads will be cleared."

In South Egremont, Catamount Ski Area’s marketing director, Rich Edwards, said he expects trails to be packed with day-trippers and those on weekend getaways to wrap up the Christmas week.

And when those folks arrive, the natural snow will only enhance their skiing experience.

"Deep powder in the Berkshires doesn’t happen too often," said Bousquet’s Roberts.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.