Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Season off to Flying Start

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Season off to Flying Start

Article excerpt

With banner skier visits across most of the nation last season at 56.2 million, mountain operators went on a spending spree with upgrades from snowmaking to new lifts to family programs. Ski resorts are off to the best start in years with many opening in the past week, attracting so many guests that there were lift lines, usually unheard of in November.

For the first time since 2008, Camelback opened early on Black Friday, attracting 1,500 joyful snow seekers each day after word got out about the 10 inches of fresh snow over Thanksgiving.

"It was great to be able to offer beginner lessons in November," said Brian Bossuyt, Camelback's director of sales and marketing, who said the mountain had four top-to-bottom trails open, plus terrain parks and beginner trails.

Camelback continues to push its terrain-based learning with new features in the Sun Bowl, adding to its already $350,000-plus investment. Later this winter, Camelback plans to open its $163 million Camelback Lodge and Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark to offer the largest ski-in/ski-out indoor water park hotel in the country. Nearby Shawnee continues its multimillion-dollar snowmaking improvements including a mile of new piping and an automated system for more dependable conditions.

Of course, the biggest investments everywhere continue to be in snowmaking. Vermont spent $15 million, marking its largest-ever expenditure, to bring total coverage up to 80 percent.

"We can pump out more snow with less energy to offer a more reliable ski product for all skiers and riders," said Ski Vermont president Parker Riehle, who added that 2,300 new low-energy, high- efficiency snow guns replaced 1,800 old ones.

New lifts were big, too, in Vermont for this winter. Okemo debuts its Sunburst Six, a high-speed bubble chair with heated seats. Stratton has spent $7 million on a new gondola and Stowe renovated its summit gondola and added a quad and two carpets on Spruce Peak. …

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