Skiers and snowboarders who survived this winter’s bugbear of heavy, wet snows will be longing for warmer months this spring, as warmer weather has curtailed some of the activity on slopes around the country. Some states already have skiers returning to trails that covered snow last winter, but others could face crippling debt from damage to snowmaking equipment, just like in the winter.
In California, at least, heavy snows in the Sierra Nevada last year helped to reduce losses to mountain resorts. Ski resorts lost approximately $106 million to massive hailstorms in March 2017, according to the most recent data. Ski towns like Squaw Valley, as well as Vail and Beaver Creek — both located in Colorado — are among those that have enjoyed the early thaw as well.
California’s resort operators are predicting that snowy conditions in the popular Sierra Nevada mountain range could have a negative effect on this year’s business.
California last year suffered after the drought — the state’s worst on record — eased a bit. There were serious concerns about a lack of snowfall that could potentially hurt outdoor winter sports. But a series of storms in December and January helped to fill lakes and reservoirs, much like a hydrant keeps water flowing back to the homes and businesses, thus helping to ease the drought’s effects.
The sunny days, coupled with a modest weather pattern, have generated strong advertising for resorts like Heavenly in the northern Sierra Nevada and Mammoth Mountain in southern California, both of which have benefited from the early thaw. Some resorts have even hosted late night, après-ski events to draw crowds who didn’t want to be stuck on the slopes in the morning.
The resorts close in mid-March to give staff and resort guests time to recover before the summer season ramps up. However, weather patterns can still change; this early spring isn’t a sure thing for everything.
It’s hard to know how much snow resorts will be able to collect by the end of the spring, especially with more significant storms forecast for the coming months. This spring has also seen significant water drops from California’s atmospheric rivers, which deliver tons of water to the state from the Gulf of Alaska.
While some big resorts are enjoying early results, every skier and snowboarder, especially in northern parts of the state, should have taken weather precautions ahead of the season. Northern Sierra slopes could easily see 15 to 20 inches of snow, which may not satisfy skiers looking for paradise.