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Ski resorts seeing rosy prospects for white winter

Meteorologists expect December to begin with cold snap

Area ski resort operators are keeping their fingers crossed for cold and snow as their business success is tied directly to the weather.

Right now, the forecast looks pretty good, said Accuweather meteorologist Brandon Buckingham, who predicts cold weather at the beginning of the month with some warming in mid-December.

Buckingham also sees more snow, with temperatures low enough to keep it on the ground.

“In January and February, we expect temperatures to be a bit below average and precipitation near to slightly above average,” he said.

He also expects the snow to be more spaced out, with a few inches of the white stuff here and there, creating a more consistent blend. Then, he expects winter weather to run into March.

“It will be cold enough with consistent shots of snow to make it a good ski season,” Buckingham said.

If that forecast holds true, it will give ski resorts a boost.

While none of the area resorts have set an opening date, Blue Knob All Seasons began making snow on Monday.

“We hope the conditions continue to be favorable in order for us to be able to open sometime during the first two weeks of December,” said spokeswoman Donna Himes.

Both Seven Springs Mountain Resort and Hidden Valley Resort hope to open in early to mid-December, said spokesman Alex Moser.

Moser said Seven Springs, which opened Dec. 12, 2020, and closed April 3 with 77 inches of natural snow, had an incredible year last season.

“The stars aligned for us. We had great snowmaking temps, and we were able to safely provide outdoor recreation during a pandemic. Our teams at all resorts worked incredibly hard to make winter for so many ski and snowboard families,” Moser said.

Hidden Valley was open Dec. 18, 2020, through March 21 and received 79 inches of natural snowfall, Moser said.

Tussey Mountain Resort had an “above average” ski season last year, said spokesman Aaron Weyman.

“It started with the weather. We had snowfall on our hill that we haven’t seen in decades, so we were able to get all of our terrain open early and not have to rely so much on snowmaking like we have in the past,” Weyman said. “We were open the week after Thanksgiving and operated up until the second half of March. We would obviously be thrilled to have a repeat season this year.”

Last year at Blue Knob was average weather-wise.

“We opened at pretty much our normal time but closed a little earlier,” Himes said. “We had lots of natural snow — about 83 inches from mid-December through February, which was awesome.”

Himes said the resort had a good year, with less rainy weather than the 2019-20 season and more snowy days.

“We were open for 93 days,” he said, adding that the warmer weather in March was really the only reason the resort closed earlier than usual.

“As far as skier visits, we had a good year,” Himes reported.

Area resorts have made a few changes and improvements for the upcoming season, some visible to skiers and others to basic infrastructure.

Seven Springs installed a new chairlift — a Doppelmayr Alpen Star fixed grip quad chairlift — that replaced the venerable Avalanche lift.

“Our new Doppelmayr chairlift will greatly improve our guest experience on the front face of the mountain, allowing for many more runs each day,” said Joel Rerko, Seven Springs director of mountain operations, in a statement. “Travel time will now be only 4 minutes and 21 seconds to the top; less time on the lift and shorter lift lines equal more time on the snow.”

New equipment at Tussey Mountain will add to the resort’s snowmaking capabilities, Weyman said.

“We have purchased a handful of snow guns to add to our snowmaking operation and are optimistic that we will get conditions necessary to make our own base, if necessary,” he said.

Blue Knob made some infrastructure improvements, replacing approximately 2500 feet of snowmaking waterlines from the top of Upper Route 66 down to Deer Run and Lower High Hopes.

In addition to the normal preparations for annual lift inspections, Blue Knob has also sandblasted and painted the loading and unloading terminals of all chairlifts, completing a two-year project of sandblasting and painting all lift towers, Himes said.

Resort operators are optimistic that operations return to a more normal season following last winter’s experience with the coronavirus pandemic.

“After all of the mandates and restrictions last year due to the pandemic, we look forward to being able to go back to more normal operations in our indoor facilities and food and beverage areas,” Himes said.

Without the weight of travel restrictions, “we hope to welcome back our customers from out of state who may not have come last year due to COVID,” she added.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 814-946-7467.

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