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Ski Resorts Bask in Snow, Cash This Winter

By Molly Cochran
March 16, 2013; 12:25 PM ET

Significant snowfall this winter has provided skiers, snowboarders and ski resorts with a joyous season compared to dismal snowfall last winter.

SugarLoaf Mountain, a ski resort in Maine, witnessed a much better ski season this year compared to last.

As of March 10, SugarLoaf had 1,088 skiable acres with 148 trails open, according to the ski resort's website.

"We have surpassed our total snowfall from last year," Ethan Austin, communications manager for SugarLoaf, said.

On average, SugarLoaf gets 200 inches of snow per winter. With March being one of their snowiest months, so far 130 inches have fallen this season, according to Austin.

AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist, Dave Samuhel said that Augusta, Maine has received 130 percent more snow this season compared to last, as of March 3.

SugarLoaf hopes to ski into the first week of May, which has been normal for the resort for the past 10 years.

This snow map represents the amount of snow depth across the United States as of March 3, 2013. Source is NOAA

Ragged Mountain, N.H., has also witnessed a snowier season with 80 inches of snow, compared to 35-40 inches last year. This is a significant increase, according to Stacy Loper, marketing manager of Ragged Mountain. On average, Ragged Mountain usually has between 110-130 inches of snow for the entire season.

At the beginning of March, 95 percent of Ragged Mountain's terrain is open. Last year only 60-65 percent of terrain was open, at this time.

Concord, N.H., has received 140 percent more snow this season compared to last, Samuhel said.

Many different types of snow have fallen this season at Ragged Mountain, according to Loper.  Heavy, wet snow has been seen throughout the season, which is best for the base of the mountain.

"Due to all of the natural snow, glade trails, that require natural snow, have been open this season," Loper said.

Ragged Mountain is expected to close April 7 this year, compared to the March 18 close date they had last year.

"We are in a great position to stay open through March and into April," Loper said.

Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort in West Virginia matched their earliest opening date in 10 years, due to the snow they received from Hurricane Sandy, according to David Dekema, the director of marketing for Snowshoe.

Snow is in abundance at Snowshoe this season compared to last, with 98 percent of their terrain open. Snowshoe should close out the season with close to 150 inches of snow, Dekema said. Last year, the ski resort only had a little over 100 inches of snow.

Snowshoe plans to end their ski season on March 31.

Tussey Mountain All Seasons in Pennsylvania has appreciated a much-snowier season as well. Last year, Tussey was forced to close Feb. 29 due to a lack of snow. They are predicting to stay open until March 17 this year. If more natural snow falls, they could stay open even longer, according to Bennett Hoffman, the director of operations.

This year, the entire mountain was open, compared to last year when only half of the mountain was open. The Shamokin Trail, which can only be opened when there is enough natural snow, made a debut this season after it was closed all of last winter.

State College, Pa., has seen a 175 percent increase in snow this winter compared to last winter, Samuhel said.

Tussey's season started out well as far as snowfall goes, but it did not start out well for snow-making. The snow-making machines have been used roughly eight times this season compared to four to five times last year. Low humidity, low dew point and low temperature are three factors that contribute to making snow, since the snow-making machines operate on wet-bulb temperature. If these qualities are not met, then the snow machines can not be run, Hoffman said.

The wet-bulb temperature is the lowest temperature that can be obtained by evaporating water into the air, according to NOAA.

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Although Tussey Mountain All Seasons has seen a significantly snowier winter, Hoffman said the winters still are not the same as in the past. Hoffman said it seems like there is a much milder winter pattern. He said he can remember a time when Tussey used to open before the holiday season, and now they are lucky if that happens.

Boston says this could be due to an 11-year solar cycle that just came to an end.

The winter of 2012 was one of the warmest winters on record for many parts of the country. Every 11 years, the Earth goes through a cycle of warmer winters due to sun spot activity. This is because the sun gives off more energy, Boston said.

"Last winter was extraordinary because of above normal temperatures by 5-12 degrees from the Rockies to the East Coast," he said.

A less active pattern of storms was seen throughout last winter. This is because of a zonal pattern of the jet stream. A zonal pattern means that the jet stream ran straight east to west, instead of dipping down from the arctic, bringing cold air throughout the United States, according to Boston.

"This season we have seen a much colder and stormier track, favorable for the Northeast," Boston said.

While March has started on a stormy note with snowfall for much of the Northeast, the month will end with milder temperatures and rain, according to AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Jack Boston.

Snow depth coverage across the United States has declined as we enter the later part of winter. Although, compared to the 2012 season we have seen more snow this year.

This map shows the snow depth across the United States on March 15, 2013. Source is NOAA.

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