- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

MARS HILL, N.C. (AP) - With green grass visible on the mountainsides, all six western North Carolina ski areas have been shut down by the recent stretch of above-average temperatures during what would normally be the height of ski season.

And with winter yet to begin, North Carolina Ski Areas Association president Kim Jochl said it is too early to determine just how bad this ski season will be.

The commission’s November economic value report showed ski areas contributed $197.2 million to North Carolina’s economy during the 2014-15 season, media outlets report. It also found the region’s ski areas had over 650,000 visits, provided 87 year-round jobs and 1,787 seasonal jobs and generated nearly $40 million in gross revenue from ski area operations.

It’s unclear whether the 2015-16 season will produce comparable figures.

The ski industry across North Carolina and the East Coast has been hit hard recently, Jochl said. For example, Sugar Mountain in Avery County opened for the season Nov. 15 and remained open for only 15 days.

While most North Carolina ski areas do not own or operate lodging accommodations, the industry is responsible for many overnight stays in local lodging, which benefits the economies of surrounding towns.

Joanne Martin, owner of the Mountaineer Restaurant and Fireside Cottages near the Cataloochee Ski Area, told The Asheville Citizen-Times (http://avlne.ws/1m6WRNS ) she can already see the slowdown in restaurant traffic and walk-in rentals for the four cabins.

“(Other years), we would be getting a lot of weekend trippers at this time from Tennessee and from Atlanta, a lot of day-trippers and a lot of college kids who just come over on break,” she said. “There’s still plenty to do (besides ski).”

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