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A Booming Start to Ski Season

VERMONT Ski season broke out of the gates at Olympic pace this year, with every alpine ski resort open -- and near full operational capacity -- by Saturday, December 8. Mount Snow led the pack early on, by getting their lifts turning on November 10. In short order, Killington, Stowe and Sugarbush also opened their trails for crowds itching to make up for lost time last season. It is not the opening date of ski season that is most noteworthy, but the quantity of trails open at such an early date. On December 4, Vermont ski resorts had 29.7% of all alpine terrain open, compared with 2.2% last year, 14.1% in 2005 and 8.5% in 2004. For example, when Smugglers Notch opened on December 5 last year, they were only able to open a mere 4 trails. After a November 23 opening date this year, Smuggs had 32 trails41% of all terrainopen on December 5. As of this weekend, the resort had 93% of all trails open, with 100% of Mounts Sterling and Madonna ready for skiing and riding. Smuggs did not open this much terrain last year until after the Valentines Day storm. When you get on the slopes, it doesnt seem like December, it seems like February, said Barbara Thomke, Public Relations Director at Smugglers Notch. As of this Sunday, Jay Peak, Burke Mountain and Mad River Glen were 100% open, with most others expecting to reach that mark soon. Ski Vermont reports that Stowe has the thickest base of any resort in Vermont with depths of 66 in. in places around the mountain. Jay Peak and Ascutney followed close behind, gauging their deepest bases at 55 in. Heavy snowfall in recent weeks also allowed 14 Nordic ski centers across the state to open as of this weekend. Increased snowmaking capabilities also ramped up early season ski conditions across Vermont this year, thanks in large part to huge capital investment in snowmaking instruments at many ski resorts after last years lack-luster beginning. We attribute much of this years great start to Mother Nature, but we certainly cant diminish the role of snowmaking, said Cindy Fletch, Director of Sales at Bolton Valley Resort. Jeff Wise, Communications Director at Stowe, insisted that this season at Stowe is not quite so out of the ordinary. While we are off to one of the best starts in several years, Stowe has consistently opened in late November for as long as I can remember. So this season is no exception, he said. But, with Stowe operating at 83% capacity as of Sunday afternoon, skiers and snowboarders will be hitting the slopes with an unquenchable thirst to make this season last as long as it can.

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