SAM Magazine—Ludlow, Vt., Dec. 23, 2022—A powerful winter storm bringing artic temps, dangerous wind chill values, and in some regions, blizzard conditions or even warm rain,has led to widespread operational disruptions at ski areas across North America heading into the holiday weekend. As the storm moves from the Rockies across the Great Plains and into the East, ski areas are responding to the extreme cold and precipitation with closures—and in some cases, stoke.
In the Rockies, “cold temperatures and colder wind chill values” closed Bridger Bowl, Mont., for operations Dec. 21-22. The ski area reopened today “for the heatwave of temps above zero.”
Big Sky, Mont., warned guests of “potential delayed and reduced operations” Dec. 21-22. With temps between minus 9 and minus 18, the resort suspended most of its lift operations on the 22nd. Today, with milder temps on tap, Big Sky is spinning most of its lifts once more.
Breckenridge, Colo., also reduced operations Dec. 22, with numerous upper mountain lifts on wind hold. At 10.35 a.m. yesterday, amid high winds, a quad chair detached from the haul rope of the Peak 8 SuperConnect as it was reaching the top terminal.
According to a statement from the resort, “One guest was on the chair at the time and fell approximately 13 feet. Ski patrol responded immediately. No injuries were reported, and the guest declined further care.”
Subzero and single digit temperatures are anticipated throughout the Midwest, with blizzard conditions sweeping through parts of the region yesterday and into today. The heaviest snowfall is expected over the Great Lakes.
Unbowed by “a bit of precipitation” in the forecast, Perfect North Slopes, Ind., remained open Dec. 22, but has suspended operations for Dec. 23-25 due to extreme cold and wind—a Wind Chill Warning for the area through Saturday afternoon cautions of wind chill values dropping to 40 below zero—a decision made with consideration for “the well-being of our guests and staff, and our local emergency services.”
Wild Mountain, Minn., suspended operations yesterday and remains closed today. The ski area plans to reopen tomorrow and then has a planned closure for Christmas Day.
With more moderate temperatures and 12”-24” of snow in the forecast, Boyne Mountain, Mich., on the other hand, is moving ahead with the grand opening of its new eight-place chair today.
In the Northeast, where warm temps in the upper-40s to low-50s are bringing heavy rainfall in advance of the mercury dropping into the teens by Friday afternoon, many resorts have opted to halt operations.
Smugglers’ Notch Resort, Vt., closed operations for today “due to high winds and precipitation of the wrong kind in the forecast.” So did Stowe Mountain, Vt., Attitash, N.H., Belleayre, N.Y., and Mont Sutton, Quebec, among others.
In lieu of a full shutdown, some operators, like Holiday Valley, N.Y., have scheduled a delayed opening for today. In Vermont, Okemo, Sugarbush, Killington, and Mount Snow are closing early in response to the state of Vermont’s warning to limit travel after 4 p.m.
“All lifts except Super Bravo will close at 1:30pm today to allow our guests & employees to get home safely before the freeze tonight,” Sugarbush tweeted at noon.
While many East Coast operators are planning to resurface tonight once the temperatures plummet and open for normal operations tomorrow, Timberline Mountain, W.Va., will remain closed from Dec. 23 through Dec. 25.
“The forecast shows extreme high winds and low temperatures that may create dangerous conditions. The potential for power outages, bad roads, and exposure risk will be high,” the resort advised in a social media post.
It’s a frosty and fitful start to the holiday period for many, but temps are forecasted to return to run of the mill winter cold and operations look set to get back on track as we moved toward the New Year.
On the upside, the post added, “The extreme low temperatures create an opportunity for over 72 hours of continuous snowmaking. This will allow us to get nearly 100% of terrain ready for Monday’s reopening.”