- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2007

Local ski resorts made a comeback over the Presidents Day weekend, after an unusually warm December and January left the area’s slopes green.

Wintergreen Resort in Charlottesville, a favorite for Washington skiers and snowboarders, had its strongest weekend in nearly 30 years, Vice President Lloyd Williams said.

“If more people don’t ski, more will come out for snowtubing. We had an incredible [number] snowtube,” Mr. Williams said, referring to the weekend’s numbers. “Everybody can snowtube.”

The Virginia resort had nearly 6,000 customers Saturday, several hundred more than on a non-holiday weekend.

December was one of the 10 warmest in the Washington area in more than 100 years, shutting down Whitetail and Liberty Mountain resorts and leaving only a few trails open at others.

The average temperature between Dec. 1 and Dec. 28 was 44.3 degrees, according to National Weather Service records at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The normal average temperature is 39.5 degrees.

But the ski resorts shouldn’t suffer too much because February tends to be the industry’s biggest month, the National Ski Areas Association said.

Resort officials predict, rain or shine, numbers should stay steady during the ski season’s remaining weeks.

Snowshoe Mountain Resort, in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia, was at full occupancy over the weekend, too, averaging almost 7,000 customers per day, spokeswoman Lindsay Kutsko said.

Chris Dudding, marketing director at Ski Roundtop in Pennsylvania, saw record numbers as well.

“This weekend was dramatically bigger. We were probably more than double,” he said, adding that some skiers prefer it warmer. And while natural snowfall doesn’t always determine a successful season, it certainly can help.

In West Virginia, 151 of the 158 slopes at the state’s four main resorts were open for the weekend, compared with 44 open slopes a month earlier.

The weather since mid-January has been beneficial on three fronts, said Joe Stevens, spokesman for the West Virginia Ski Areas Association.

Not only has there been more than 60 inches of natural snow, but more importantly the low temperatures have allowed the resorts to make their own snow.

Also, because the weather remains wintry in the market areas West Virginia draws tourists from — Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and the Washington area — it puts people in the mood to ski.

“Back in late December, early January, if it’s 65 degrees in Charlotte (N.C.), they’re not thinking about skiing as much as they are playing golf,” Mr. Stevens said.

“But when they’re experiencing cold weather, too, that keeps winter recreation at the forefront of people’s minds and they want to go out and play in it.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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