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Dust off your skis: Cold air, snow to hit prior to Thanksgiving holiday weekend in Northeast

By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
November 18, 2017, 5:08:34 AM EST

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Skiers and snowboarders planning to hit the slopes during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend will want to give thanks to Mother Nature.

While temperatures may moderate early next week, additional waves of cold air are likely through the holiday weekend, which should provide more opportunities for ski areas to produce snow and even receive natural snow in some areas.

“There should be enough cold [air] through next week for snowmaking,” said AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok.

However, AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures may be low enough with cold air and blustery winds to keep some skiers from hitting the slopes on Thanksgiving, according to Pastelok.

While Thanksgiving marks the start of the ski season for many resorts, skiing and riding has already begun at some mountains.

ski season

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, Killington Resort, located in the Green Mountains of central Vermont, became the first eastern resort to open its slopes for the new season.

In Pennsylvania's Pocano Mountains, Big Boulder Park in Lake Harmony opened select trails on Nov. 11 and will reopen this weekend despite temperatures not conducive for snowmaking, the resort said on its Facebook page.

New Hampshire’s ski season began on Friday, Nov. 10, when Bretton Woods Ski Area, the largest in the state, opened for the weekend.

According to Ski New Hampshire, a private ski area trade association, two more alpine resorts are expected to open on Friday, Nov. 24, and eight others are blowing snow to get ready for opening.

Thanksgiving day

McIntyre Ski Area in Manchester, New Hampshire, announced on Nov. 10 that it had set a record for the earliest date that they had begun to make snow. A targeted opening is set for mid-December.

“It’s always great to shoot to open before or around Thanksgiving, but it’s typically a time of year where only the diehards are skiing and riding,” said Karolyn Cataldo, communications and marketing manager for Ski New Hampshire. “[It] absolutely relies on the weather."

Cataldo added that despite warmer-than-normal conditions this fall, the recent cold weather has been enough to get the slopes prepped for skiing and riding at many of the mountains.

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Heading into this weekend, six out of 17 Vermont ski resorts were open or were scheduled to open. Nine are expected to open by Black Friday, which is the same number that were open by Thanksgiving 2016.

Thanksgiving weekend is usually the targeted opening date for many of the major resorts in the state, according to Chloe Elliott, communications manager for Ski Vermont.

"The holidays are a highly trafficked time here in Vermont and the resorts want to ensure they can offer early season skiing and snowboarding to those who love our state [and] to spend their holidays here," Elliott said.

"Vermont’s resorts want to make snow and offer up quality conditions for visitors as early on as possible, so taking advantage of the cooler weather in early November, just prior to the holidays, is very important for the overall success of early season snowmaking and the holiday rush," she said.

Single-digit temperatures in western New York over the past week allowed Holiday Valley Ski Resort located in Ellicottville, about an hour south of Buffalo, to spread over 80 acre-feet of snow across the trails. An acre-foot refers to 1 acre of land that is buried by 1 foot of snow.

ski vermont snow

(Photo/Shem Roose/Ski Vermont)

If cold air persists on top of any lake-effect snow that develops in the coming days, the mountain could welcome skiers and riders by Black Friday.

"We always target the day after Thanksgiving to open, but it is ultimately up to Mother Nature to be cold enough to make snow and have it stick," said Jane Eshbaugh, director of marketing for Holiday Valley. "What that target date does for us is that it gives all of our departments a date to make sure equipment is ready to go, staff is hired and trained and programs are in place."

Holiday Valley's snowmaking operation features 700 snow guns including 330 in an automated system, which allows workers to turn on all the guns at once. The automated system allows snow to be produced in short windows, when the air is cold enough.

This week, crews stored snow in large piles, which makes it harder to melt when milder air arrives. Then, when it turns colder again, the snow is spread across trails like icing on a cake, Eshbaugh explained.

Eshbaugh said Holiday Valley typically sees a more enthusiastic response from season passholders and younger age groups around Thanksgiving, but if a lot of snow were to fall, then it could produce a bigger turnout.

"If we get a lot of natural snow and there is snow in the cities, we can have a very busy Thanksgiving weekend," she said.

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