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January 31. 2013 8:25PM

Slopeside with James Patrick: New England weather can't keep us from skiing


 

Liz Hunt took off her skis and tromped across the base of Pat's Peak on Wednesday morning with a message to deliver: She'd figured out how to describe the conditions. It was warm, misty and foggy at ski areas across New England.

"It's a goggle-wipe, follow-the-grooming machine kind of day," Hunt said with a laugh.

Don't like the conditions? Get a cup of coffee and wait an hour. The weather will probably change. Skiers everywhere deal with a variety of weather. New England skiers just have a little more to deal with this winter as the weather swings from perfect to frigid to hot.

Shawn Riley wasn't scared off by the weather. The front of his jacket had nine lift tickets attached, many from Pat's Peak. The Concord resident brought his son, Shane, and daughter, Samantha, for a morning of lessons followed by skiing with dad.

In a way, Wednesday's unusual weather was a blessing.

"I've been promising the kids I'd take them skiing," he said. "Today there was a two-hour weather delay at their school. I figured that if you're going to have the kids skip school, it's better to do it on a day when there's a two-hour delay."

Samantha Riley didn't seem concerned by the crunchy, slippery snow. She smiled when she was asked if she would rather be in school.

"I'd rather do this," she said.

Ski areas across New England have had a strong year, boosted by well-timed snowfalls. Storms after Christmas dumped fresh powder for the busiest week of the year, then another storm rolled in just in time for the Martin Luther King Day weekend.

Jessi Gilbert, who compiles the snow report for Pat's Peak, beamed when she talked about the winter weather.

"Both storms were perfectly timed," Gilbert said. "It just motivates people and helps them remember that it's winter up here and that they should come skiing."

It's been a while since people have had a reminder that it's winter. Temperatures were around 60 in Boston on Wednesday. A devout group of skiers still found their way to the mountains. Hunt drove about 75 miles from Hamilton, Mass., for her ritual of Wednesday skiing. It doesn't matter what the weather is; this is simply what skiers do.

Still, the masses are ready for another dose of winter.

"I'm a big Farmer's Almanac girl and it said we were going to get a lot of snow this winter," Hunt said. "So far, I'm disappointed. I keep waiting for the snow. But the almanac says we're supposed to get a lot of snow in February, so I'm hopeful."

Few people are more keenly aware of the weather report than skiers and people who work at ski areas. Gilbert took credit for a recent 5-inch dusting of snow at Pat's Peak. She was writing a snow report before her two days off from work and took a leap of faith. There wasn't snow in the forecast but Gilbert said in the report that it was going to snow. Pat's Peak got 5 inches on her days off.

"It's not up to the Farmer's Almanac or Weather.com. It's just good-old Yankee ingenuity," she said with a smile.

Whatever works. Another round of snow would go over well with skiers. Even if it doesn't, people will still show up at the mountains, ready for a run.

"There's always a skier on the hill," Gilbert said.

We're New England skiers. We're used to this kind of thing.


James Patrick's ski column is published weekly in the Union Leader. Write to him at jpatrick@unionleader.com.


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