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Mid-Atlantic ski resorts hurting because of lack of winter; Wisp closes weeks early

Wisp ski resort, Feb. 27, 2017. (Wisp)
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This winter’s 70-degree days and lack of snow have surely put a smile on the face of many in the Mid-Atlantic. But it has placed enormous stress on ski areas, which are enduring one of the most challenging seasons in years.

Webcam images of ski areas around the Mid-Atlantic show similar scenes. Snow cover is eroding along the edge of slopes while bare patches expand in the middle.

Many resorts have decided to reduce hours of operations. At Western Maryland’s Wisp resort, they’ve closed altogether.

“Due to the historic and unseasonably warm rainy weather, snow tubing, ice skating and skiing conditions have deteriorated to a degree that we must close for the season,” Wisp Resort wrote Sunday on its Facebook page. “The forecast for the next several days calls for continued high temperatures in the upper 50s with more rain. There is no sign of any winter weather over the next several weeks.”

Wisp received just 56 inches of snow this winter, compared with its historical average of 100 inches. The resort lies in Western Maryland’s snow belt and, usually, is hammered by snow coming off the Great Lakes.

Wisp opened for skiing on Dec. 16 and operated for 72 days. “I talked to our manager, and this is the earliest in his 40 years that he recalls closing,” said Lori Zaloga, director of marketing for the resort. Typically, Wisp stays open until at least mid-March.

The resort experienced three major thaws this winter, and the thaw late last week was the final straw. “The conditions were just too far gone to rebuild,” Zaloga said. “It’s not normal, and it’s not what we expected.”

The early closing at Wisp means a shorter period of employment for its seasonal workers. Its season-pass holders will lose out on skiing during the popular spring break period.

To stretch out its season into early March, Timberline Four Seasons Resort in West Virginia decided to temporarily close through Friday in an attempt “to prolong the life expectancy of snow” and “shift assets towards our most popular period,” the resort said on its Facebook page.

Other resorts also are altering operations because of the compromised snowpack. Virginia’s Wintergreen resort posted on its website that it had discontinued night skiing, while Bryce resort trimmed its weekday hours to 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Massanutten resort also began an “abbreviated schedule” as of Sunday “due to unseasonably warm temperatures,” its website said.

The spotty snow in the Mid-Atlantic sharply contrasts with the epic snow season in the western United States, where several resorts have received more than 500 inches of snow this winter.

500 inches and counting: Snow has clobbered California ski resorts this winter

Below are some webcam images from the Mid-Atlantic ski resorts revealing the less-than-optimal ski conditions…