Holiday week was a much-needed boost for White Mountain ski areas

Union Leader Correspondent
January 03. 2017 9:03PM
A skier goes beneath the ascending Cannon Mountain Aerial Tram on Sunday. (John Koziol/Union Leader Correspondent)

FRANCONIA — Coming off one of their worst seasons in recent history, alpine ski resorts in the White Mountains are basking in history-making attendance and revenue over the past holiday week.

At Cannon Mountain, Friday was “the third-largest single day in the past decade,” said General Manager John DeVivo, who also is in charge of the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway and Franconia Notch State Park.

Friday was the best single day at Loon Mountain in five years and the best at Waterville Valley in two years.

The return of a real winter, with copious amounts of natural snow and cold temperatures that permit snowmaking, has been a boon, said Jessyca Keeler, executive director of Ski NH, which promotes 16 alpine and 18 cross-country resorts throughout the Granite State.

The El Nino weather pattern was blamed for warmer temperatures and a “snow drought” last winter that left alpine areas reporting skier visits 26 percent below their 10-year average and 31 percent below the 2014-15 season, which was the fourth-best season on record.

While stressing that much can happen between now and when the lifts shut down sometime in April, DeVivo said Sunday that “I firmly believe this is going to be our best season ever.”

Cannon’s previously best season, he said, was 2010-11, when the area topped $7.5 million in revenue and 150,000 visitors.

In general, DeVivo said, alpine ski areas make most of their money in just 55 days — 20 weekends and the Christmas and February school vacation weeks.

A year ago Monday, Cannon had only nine trails and four lifts open, compared to this past Sunday when it had 86 trails and nine lifts, as well as the aerial tram, in operation.

A short distance down Interstate 93 in Lincoln, Loon is marking its 50th anniversary in fine form, said spokesman Greg Kwasnik.

Friday, when Loon had to announce that it had run out of skier parking, was its busiest day since the 2012-13 season, he said.

On Tuesday, Loon had 58 of 61 trails open and nine lifts. Last year at this time, 25 trails were open.

Waterville Valley, which like Loon is marking its 50th anniversary, “had our best day Friday in two years,” communications manager Tatiana Baier said.

“We’re very pleased,” she said.

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