“When you look at the monthly temperatures for the entirety of New England, January 2023 was the warmest January we’ve seen since record-keeping began in earnest in 1895.”-Elizabeth Burakowski, an assistant research professor at the University of New Hampshire.
As a New Hampshire resident, I would describe our ski season as underwhelming. We had a few wet snowstorms, but much of the winter featured warm temperatures that made snowmaking challenging. Our snowy cycles featured wet snow and then were followed days later by a freeze-thaw cycle. A snowy March helped create some stoke, but Spring eventually sprung. The last mountains open, which were Cannon, Loon, and Wildcat, closed on April 16th.
New Hampshire Public Radio reports that leaders in New Hampshire’s ski industry are worried about how warm temperatures could impact the New Hampshire ski industry in the coming years.
Alex Lahoud, who is the Business Operations Director at Whaleback Mountain, showed NHPR around the ski area in early April. With only around 30% of their terrain having snowmaking coverage, opening these trails is key to a successful operation. He pointed out how challenging it was to keep the mountain open during the early portion of the season:
“Anywhere where we’ve made snow … that’s where the snow still is. Anything that’s natural – it’s totally gone at this point…it was definitely more drastic than normal. The warm temps were longer than they have been in the past.”
Over at Pat’s Peak, they have an elite snowmaking system, which helped the Southern New Hampshire ski resort remain 100% open through a solid portion of the winter. In spite of this, they struggled to keep some of the trails open at points due to the frequent warm weather. Lori Rowell, who is the director of sales and marketing at Pats Peak, described the impact of warm weather on their bottom line:
“It was a bit of a roller coaster. … For a little while there in February I think we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, is it gonna be winter?’”
Jessyca Keeler, who is the President of Ski New Hampshire, described how snowmaking technology may only partially help in the future:
“There is a point where I don’t know that technology will be able to keep up [with rising temperatures]. We’re not there yet. But it’s something that I think people kind of wonder, what’s gonna happen 20, 30, 50 years from now?”
Jessyca also described how the weather impacts people’s mindsets from critical target markets:
“If people in our key market areas, whether it’s southern New Hampshire or the greater Boston area, or places like that not seeing snow or just even cold winter temperatures, they’re not really thinking about skiing.”
Up north, Cannon also had its fair share of struggles this winter. InDepthNH.org reports that revenue and visitation were down about 20% compared to the average season.
John Devivo, who is the general manager of Cannon and Franconia Notch State Park, said that a lack of snow and warm temperatures led to minimal visitation during the beginning of the season. Cannon’s snowmaking network has rapidly improved over the past decade, but it skis best when the natural terrain is in play.
A theory of mine is that the Zoomer Triple was closed for a solid portion of the season, and the Cannonball Quad also had some mechanical issues, so prospective guests may have decided to hit up other nearby mountains.
My last New Hampshire ski day of the season was at Cannon, which is in my opinion the best ski resort in the state. With temperatures in the 60s and 70s throughout the weekend, the snow was melting fast. Trails on the upper mountain skied well, but the middle of the mountain was in pretty rough shape. This is expected on a closing day, but it shows what one warm front can do to snowpack.
While the March snowfall saved the 2022-23 season from disaster, there are no guarantees that New Hampshire’s next warm winter will bring the desirable outcome.
Image/Video Credits: Ian Wood