With a winter snowfall that was remarkable for its consistency, and a springtime that is producing more precipitation than just about anywhere else on the planet, skiing could be close to perfect at a lot of the resorts in the East.
And yet — not that ski industry fans need reminding — not all ski areas are created equal.
This ski season is expected to be just like last season, when there was no much change to the weather pattern through the winter. But as summer settles in, it will take on the characteristics of a typical influenza season, and we could see a lot of people sick with a lot of different viruses.
And that’s not the only possibility of problems this season. U.S. Geological Survey research found that extreme snow events, when storms unleash so much snow that roads or basements are impassable, cost California and Utah a combined $50 million in 2013-14. And new data suggest that harsh winters are becoming more frequent, particularly for smaller ski resorts.
It’s also possible that this year will be worse than last season, when commercial resorts saw an increase in snowfall of more than 21 percent. It won’t be just big ski areas, though.
A recent survey of 623 ski lift attendants found that 66 percent of them had fallen ill within the past six months, up from 34 percent during the winter of 2012-13. The same survey found that 43 percent had had at least one concussion in the past six months, compared with just 15 percent of survey respondents at the same time last season.
So, are you planning to go skiing this year? Well, many resorts are also just pulling out of bankruptcy, including Vail Resorts, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March. And many resorts closed early this season, leaving others with some snow at their doorstep but few people on the mountain. That may limit the crowd appeal. The weekend before Easter, for example, saw only 10 skiers out of 30, and just 60 out of 800 patrons that day.
Still, we’re a long way from doing what snowboarding aficionados would like us to believe snowboarding was invented to do: skiing. The snowboarding fraternity is taking a number of steps to increase its profile. The NYC Snowboard Expo will be back this year with all the heavy-metal beer drinking, plus a run of Olympic athletes and a wide variety of vendors.
In addition, Mountain Dew introduced its first snowboarding-related version of the Gatorade Mountain Dew Energy Drink, and within a week of its release, some 125,000 cans had been sold across Colorado and Nevada.