U.S. ski resorts nationwide hoping snow drought ends soon

It’s no secret that Lake Tahoe ski resorts are desperate for snow. The region hasn’t received any measureable snow in more than six weeks and the possibility is not likely to happen over the next 10 days.

However, Lake Tahoe resorts aren’t the only ones relying on manmade snow this season. According to weather blogger Jeff Masters of Wundergound.com, “95 percent of the country that normally has snow at this time of year had below-average snow cover (in December).”

As of Jan. 6, just 16 percent of the U.S. had snow on the ground. A year ago at this time, an estimated 45 percent of the country had snow. The lack of snow is taking a serious toll on the ski industry and winter tourism in general.

“Nationwide, the lack of snow is costing tens of millions of dollars in winter recreation, restaurant, lodging and sporting goods sales,” the Associated Press has reported.

The lack of snow is certainly prevalent in Western ski resorts. Rob Katz is the chief executive of Vail Resorts, Inc. which has resorts in Lake Tahoe (Heavenly and Northstar) and four more in Colorado (Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone).

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In a statement, Katz said this is the first time in 30 years that the famed back bowls at Vail ski resort have not been opened for skiing or snowboarding. He also said that the Lake Tahoe region didn’t have snow in December for the first time since the late 1800s.

Looking out the window of his Denver home, Martin Pyykkonen told Bloomberg news that all he sees is brown at a time of year when he typically sees the Rockies covered in white. Pyykkonen says people in Denver can’t believe the lack of snow this season.

“People who have lived here all their life say they’ve never seen anything like it,” said Pyykkonen in a Bloomberg story.

In Utah, December was described as a “miserable month for Utah skiers” by Jim Steenburgh of the Wasatch Weather Weenies blog. Alta ski resort has less than 25 inches of snow, compared to 131.5 inches in December 2010.

The Northeast snow situation is also bleak, although several of the larger resorts are making snow. Yet areas that depend on natural snow are suffering. According to the AP, in Maine up to 100 people would be skiing on 12 miles of trails on a good day at Carter’s Cross-Country Ski Center, but the center has yet to open because there’s no snow on the ground.

For skiers and snowboarders who want to travel, here are two suggestions. Taos ski resort in New Mexico has received more than 8 feet of snow this year, and Alkyeska resort in southern Alaska has plenty of real snow as well.

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