The ground may be bare now, but there’s snow in the hills as New England ski resorts kick off the season with ever more high-efficiency snow-making guns blasting onto slopes.
From the debut of snowcat skiing for adventurous skiers and riders at Sugarloaf in Maine to high-tech ticketing, resorts are offering a variety of events and upgrades to draw skiers and riders this season.
Here’s a look at what to expect.
Say goodbye to the paper lift ticket attached to a jacket by a wire hanger. More resorts have swapped them out for high-tech tickets and passes with radio-frequency identification that allow skiers and riders to carry them in jacket pockets and pass quickly through gates to board lifts.
Big ski areas that have already adopted the technology say it cuts down on fraud, reduces lift lines and helps them track use of lifts and trails as well as lost skiers. This season, Sugarbush and Smugglers’ Notch in Vermont and Waterville Valley, Mount Sunapee Resort and Gunstock Mountain Resort in New Hampshire will be using RFID technology.
More snowmaking, less energy
From Mount Snow in Vermont to Waterville Valley in New Hampshire, resorts are bulking up their snowmaking, producing more snow using less power, allowing them to open sooner and keep the slopes covered longer. This year, Mount Snow in West Dover, Vermont, completed a $30 million snowmaking upgrade that it says doubles its ability to make snow. The southern Vermont resort opened Nov. 11, its earliest opening in a decade, said spokesman Jamie Storrs.
“It was really about getting open and showing off this new snowmaking system and what it could do for our pass holders who have been anxiously awaiting it,” he said.
For the adventurous expert skier and rider, Maine’s Sugarloaf is debuting its snowcat-serviced skiing and riding in “sidecountry” terrain this season. Snowcat snow-grooming machines with passenger seating will deliver skiers and riders up Burnt Mountain, home to steep terrain and powder. The resort says this season, cat rides will be offered on weekends and vacation weeks only. The price, on top of a lift ticket or season’s pass, ranges from $20 to $30 for a cat ride depending on the time of day.
“Since its opening, our sidecountry terrain has become a fan favorite among Sugarloafers,” according to Crusher Wilkinson, Sugarloaf VP of mountain operations. “The new Burnt Mountain Cat Skiing will not only enhance the skiing and riding experience, but also make the terrain more accessible to our guests.”