MONTPELIER, Vt. — Early season snow and cold temperatures are helping New England ski resorts open early, carving out a blizzard of a start to the 2018-2019 season.
Many hitting the slopes are finding great November conditions across Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
The early season snow bounty is being combined with tens of millions of dollars in improvements at resorts across Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine that include new chair lifts, snow-making upgrades and more off-slope activities for winter enjoyment. Another bonus is the storms have hit southern New England and the New York area, which helps generate interest in winter sports from people who live far from the mountains.
All the new amenities are being highlighted by the cold weather that allows snow-making machines to blanket the slopes — plus the free, natural snow that has been covering the region in a series of early storms. All this has combined to produce rarely seen mid-November conditions, said Sarah Hyde of Wilmington, who has been out on the slopes a half dozen times already at southern Vermont's Mount Snow, which had its earliest opening ever on Oct. 27.
"In the old days I would take a pair of rock skis out for early in the season because you'd rather see the sparks fly on something old rather than something new," said Hyde, who added that she hasn't seen any bare spots on the slopes thus far.
The snowfall in Maine threatened records for November in some parts of the state. Beth Ward, general manager of the Camden Snow Bowl, said the early snowfall had residents "chomping to ski."
Ward said the combination of early snow, cold weather and a strong economy was a perfect recipe for a strong season. She said last year's late spring snow also helped interest carry over.
"The snow that we are getting right now is the best marketing we could ask for," Ward said. "It sells itself, really."
The good economy also contributed to an increase in sales of gear in the offseason, said Greg Sweetser, executive director of the Ski Maine Association. "Ski swaps," in which skiers buy, sell and trade gear before the season, were especially well attended this year, he said.
"From Presque Isle to Kittery, these ski swaps had great enthusiasm this year," Sweetser said. "People are feeling confident with the economy."
The Bretton Woods Ski Area near Mount Washington plans to debut its eight-person gondola this season. It will climb about 1,300 vertical feet (396 meters) from the base area to just below the summit of Mount Rosebrook, one of its three peaks, in less than five minutes.
Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch is celebrating its 80th season. It's known for having the first passenger aerial tramway in North America, which ascends to the 4,080-foot (1,243.6-meter) summit. Cannon has added a new ski patrol hut and made some snowmaking upgrades, in addition to adding more seats to its pub.
At Waterville Valley, workers are getting ready a new High Country T-Bar lift. The resort says the surface lift is low to the ground and less susceptible to wind. It is replacing its 1966 double chairlift, which often shut down during high winds.
Last Saturday, there were 20 inches (51 centimeters) of snow at a measuring stake near the top of Mount Mansfield, Vermont's tallest mountain, the most so early in the season since 2013. And last Friday, the day before the official opening of Vermont's Sugarbush resort, season pass holders got an early shot at the trails.
"They hadn't even groomed the main runs down the mountain at all," said Adam White, a spokesman for the Vermont Ski Areas Association, which represents about 50 downhill and cross country resorts across the state. "There was so much abundant fresh snow we were skiing powder."
In northern Vermont, the Jay Peak ski resort is opening for the season on Friday, but the resorts bookings for the season were given a huge boost by the late-season snowfalls last March that left skiers eager for more.
"The last impression has been the lasting impression," said J.J. Toland, a spokesman for the Jay Peak ski area, which is opening for the season on Friday with fantastic conditions.
AP reporters Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine, and Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.