HANCOCK -- It's been a rough season for local ski areas, which have had to stay alert to make snow after every rain event to keep the slopes open.

But this weekend turned out to be just fine, thanks to a well-timed snowfall and the long weekend to celebrate Martin Luther King Day.

MLK weekend is an important time for ski resorts -- one of four essential weekends in the season. With enough snow, it can be one of the busiest of the year.

With rain events most of last weekend, ski area operators were a bit worried about the effects on MLK weekend skiing. But the snow on Saturday was just what they were hoping for.

"It helped fill the cash register yesterday, and it is so much better than last weekend," said Brian Fairbank, chairman of the Fairbank Group, which operates Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort in Hancock, Bromley Mountain Resort in Vermont, and Cranmore Mountain Resort in New Hampshire.

The Saturday before, Jiminy Peak had to close at 2 p.m. due to a lightning storm, Fairbank noted. But this weekend, all chairlifts were operating and all the trails were open.

"So far, we're doing pretty good, but we're off from last year by about six or seven percent," he added.

He attributes the drop to a number of rain events that have plagued skiers several times this winter, including during the holiday break, which is typically the busiest period of the year.

"It has taken its toll," Fairbank said.

The good news is that forecasters are seeing consistently cold weather for the next three weeks or so.

"For the next three weeks, winter is here to stay," Fairbanks said.

At Bousquet Ski Area in Pittsfield, it was much the same, according to owner Sherry Roberts.

"Last week at this time, it looked pretty bleak, with rain last Saturday and Tuesday," Roberts said. "But since then we've been making snow, grooming it out, and now the trails look good."

She said that while business was better last MLK weekend, this weekend was still pretty good, "but not a record breaker."

In fact, the skiers who came out this weekend were "pleasantly surprised," Roberts said. "It's good to know the trails looked so good after what we've been through this winter."

She said the ski business is up and down even at the best of times. And when this year comes out as a "good, solid average year, we'll be doing pretty well."

To reach Scott Stafford:
sstafford@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6241.
On Twitter: @BE_SStafford