Looking Back on Winter 2013-14
Last winter created some interesting challenges this year, so Mount Washington Alpine Resort got creative with the way groomers moved snow around, and innovative in dealing with season passes.
“If you look back at the winter, the fact that we lost Christmas and only had one tubing lane open, it was hard to deal with. We got the snow in January then we got 17-degree Celsius weather. Groomers did what they could with the snow they had,” said Don Sharpe, Resort Director of Business Development and Marketing.
By the time the season ended in late April, the Resort saw 82 snow days, where a normal year is 125-130.
“We’ve been up to 145-150 if we open in November,” Sharpe said.
The Resort promised season pass holders 100 days of snow this year. If they were open under 100 days pass holders would get a certain amount of credit towards season passes for next year. That amounted to 18 days credit, Sharpe explained.
For the first time, the Resort closed temporarily part way through the season.
Sharpe worked with Whistler Resort to offer Mount Washington Alpine Resort Season Pass holders free skiing if they used their passes at Whistler in January, until Mount Washington reopened.
“It worked out really well,” Sharpe said. “We talked to Whistler and they were willing to work with us. It’s about people who are dedicated and diehard skiers just wanting to get out on the snow. For us, our season pass holders are our most loyal customers.”
The Resort has agreed to the snow assurance again next year for Season Pass holders. “For us, the tough part is we’re guaranteeing there will be snow for them to ski on but we don’t get to control that.”
While the Resort has snow fences that collect snow in large drifts, they only work well when it snows. Same with the “snow farms” the Resort has: areas that are unsuitable for skiing where snow is allowed to collect, so groomers can push it onto runs, like Linton’s Loop and Rainbow. “Again, it’s a small thing but every little thing helps,” Sharpe said.
Although the concept has been studied for many years, there are no snowmaking machines on Mount Washington. “We always explore the options of snow making,” Sharpe said.
“We’ve been looking at it for a long time. Water is a big issue and the amount of water it takes. So is the mix of temperature and humidity and whether the numbers are suitable at Mount Washington. The fact you can make snow at different temperatures is based on humidity,” he explained.
The Resort has looked at niche snowmaking so groomers could spread it around in order to have some areas open earlier than others. But again, water, and the lack of it in sufficient quantities, is a stumbling block.
“That’s not to say we haven’t looked at all the options,” he said. “We continue to look at ways that might work for us.”
Until then, staff and skiers alike will start their annual snow dance even as summer wanes.