Virginia's ski resorts, which got off to a slow start because of an unseasonably warm December, are reporting a booming business after a winter snowstorm and a spate of bitter cold temperatures.
"We're looking at a record season this year," said Mark Glickman, director of public relations at Wintergreen, 40 miles southwest of Charlottesville.
"We've been very busy; the phones have been ringing off the hook," said Steve Showalter, ski-area manager at Massanutten, 10 miles east of Harrisonburg.
Officials at Virginia's four ski resorts were particularly happy with January's single digit temperatures and low humidity, which are ideal conditions for making snow.
"We have made snow almost around the clock since Jan. 2," said Manfred Locher, general manager of Bryce Resort in Basye. Other ski managers reported similar stretches of continuous snow making.
The combination of natural and artificial snow has resulted in advertised bases of 15 inches to 72 inches at the resorts, with more snow being made every day the weather is cold. "In some places we have 8 to 10 feet of snow," Showalter said.
The prime January conditions are in sharp contrast to last month, when temperatures in the 60s hampered snow making and kept skiers at home. "We struggled through December," said Sepp Kober, ski area manager at The Homestead in Hot Springs.
Showalter attributed the warm December to worldwide weather fluctuations. "The weather patterns here in the valley seem to have changed in the last few years," he said. "They used to be pretty predictable, but now one year you'll have a cold December and the next you won't." Wintergreen was the only resort that did not have a disastrous December, with Glickman attributing advanced snow making as a key to allowing the resort to operate during the heat wave.
"We had three slopes open in December during the hot spell," he said. "We were just lucky we got off to a better start."
The four resorts reported all slopes have been open this month and that skiers have been flocking from Washington and the Tidewater area to take advantage of the conditions.
The ski managers were reluctant to make predictions about the remainder of the ski season, which generally extends to mid-March or late March, depending on the weather. But all agreed that the snow and cold temperatures provided a good base from which to work.