Hitting the slopes with family and friends has become a holiday custom for many ski and snowboard enthusiasts and an alternative for those who wish to steer clear of the mall Thanksgiving weekend.
Many of the region’s mountain resorts — especially those up north — are calling their opening weekends a success.
Six trails and two lifts were operating Saturday for Gore Mountain’s opening day. Nearly 1,200 people bought lift passes, several hundred more than visited the mountain’s opening day last year, according to Emily Stanton, the mountain’s marketing manager.
“It’s been one of our snowier opening weekends in several years,” said Stanton, referring to the mountain staff’s ability to produce snow because of the recent cold weather.
Stanton said Gore and many other resorts and lodges in the Northeast try to open by Thanksgiving weekend because it’s a time for families to do activities together.
Since Nov. 18, snowmakers at Gore have worked to produce the 2 feet of snow that evenly covered the 37 acres of terrain used opening weekend.
“We expect to expand quickly due to the success snowmakers have had so far,” said Stanton.
The mountain’s interconnect project with historical North Creek Ski Bowl was recently completed.
The project linked the Ski Bowl, owned by the town of Johnsburg, to the resort through trails and lifts. The expansion added five new trails, a new lift, a new freestyle course and increased the mountain’s vertical drop. Gore now has the sixth greatest drop in the Northeast at 2,500 feet.
At the season’s peak, Gore will now have 102 trails and 13 lifts in operation.
“We’re very excited about that,” Stanton said.
Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid began running its lifts for skiers and snowboarders on Black Friday. The mountain also has an annual tradition of opening Thanksgiving weekend.
“Weatherwise, it just makes sense,” said Marketing Manager Bridgete Hinman. “Plus, there are so many families in town, it makes for a nice holiday weekend if we’re here for them.”
The mountain currently has six trails and three lifts open, but Hinman said the goal is to have the resort’s 86 trails and 11 lifts fully running by Christmas.
“Our snow guns are hammering away,” she said. With 11 trails completely covered with snow, visitors can expect five additional trails to be open soon.
Killington Resort in Vermont has been open since Nov. 2 and has 23 trails and 10 lifts open.
Tom Horrocks, the resort’s communications manager, said the region’s constant cold weather and low humidity made for great snow conditions.
However, resorts like Killington and Whiteface, which are at a higher altitude and farther north, have an advantage over local resorts.
Maple Ski Ridge in Rotterdam is hoping to open by Dec. 12.
“Everyone needs to start praying to the cold and snow gods,” said Carolyn LaHart, the daughter of owner George Mulyca.
The mountain’s seven trails have not been opened due to the area’s warm weather. LaHart said they are waiting to make snow until next Friday, since rain is forecast for Wednesday with a temperature of 60 degrees.
“Snow making is very expensive, and we don’t want all of our hard work to be washed away,” said LaHart.
LaHart estimates it will take 11 days to fully cover the 65 acres of Maple Ski Ridge with 3 feet of snow. The property’s seven snow machines will run 24 hours a day.
The goal is to open before Christmas, since holiday breaks are the most popular time for skiers and snowboarders.
Killington’s Horrocks said although Thanksgiving is usually a time for family, that’s not the case for other holidays. When school is out for extended periods of time, parents seek out activities for their children and visitor rates increase.
He called the holiday weekend good momentum for the rest of the season.
“It’s important for us, but also for all neighboring resorts to have a good start-off, too,” Horrocks said. “It spreads the message that the Northeast is open for skiing and riding and helps to get the season going.”