By Kellen M. Quigley
Thanks to modern technology and weeks of preparation in the fall, the recent bout of warm weather had little effect on the two Ellicottville destinations for all things snowsport.
This past week, temperatures soared into the 50s as the streets and sidewalks became clear of snow and ice for the first time in many weeks.
But at nearby HoliMont and Holiday Valley, it was smooth sailing for skiers and snowboarders on days where some could wear shorts and a t-shirt.
That should change this week as temperatures are expected to drop to a low of 12 Friday night. A mostly sunny Saturday should see a small climb up to about 20 degrees before dropping down to 13 that night.
A cloudy Sunday is in the forecast with a high right around the freezing point. A low of 22 is predicted for Sunday night.
The ski season began with a temperate and unassuming fall that lasted longer than expected, and many wondered if winter even wanted to be here this year.
Christmas week is a critical period for all ski areas, and it was no different for HoliMont, said director of marketing Greg Culver. Luckily, he said, the devoted members came out to ski even with limited terrain in December.
“Our snowmakers grew anxious to get to work,” Culver said. “They took full advantage of every window of cold they got. Sometimes it’s hard to stick to the HoliMont philosophy on snowmaking and grooming, but it always pays off.”
At Holiday Valley, the season was also off to a strong start. In November, a notable 55 inches of snow came down on the hills, said Evan Deglopper. The snowmakers took advantage of early cold weather to start stockpiling snow.
Although the resort opened on its target date of Nov. 23, Deglopper said the following month came with some warm and wet weather and only 18 inches of natural snow, although business was good through the holiday season.
“Then snowmakers were quick to find every opportunity to make snow and continue to build up the base,” Deglopper said. Holiday Valley is home to one of the most powerful automated snowmaking system on the east coast and one of the most energy-efficient systems in the entire country.
At HoliMont, 21 new Super Pole Cat Fan Guns were brought in last fall for added for snowmaking. Culver said they allow for more permanent and effective snowmaking in some of the problem areas where there are natural springs and low spots that always need special attention.
The goal is to have 100-percent coverage — meaning every single slope will have snowmaking on it.
“Thanks to the understanding of our members, we were able to stockpile huge amounts of snow and save them for just the right time,” Culver said.
When the groomers finally got a chance to “push” the massive piles of snow, he said some of them were up to 25 feet thick. Once they were done working their magic, the slopes at HoliMont were in near perfect conditions allowing them to open every slope.
Once January and February hit, Mother Nature helped the area by delivering another 52 inches of snow at Holiday Valley, Deglopper said, along with cold temperatures.
With this real winter weather, Holiday Valley managed to open all 13 lifts, and the slopes are all in excellent condition.
As of Wednesday, 47 trails and 12 lifts were open at Holiday Valley. At HoliMont, 48 trails and seven lifts were open.
Although there’s little snow in the forecast for about a week, the return of cooler temperatures will be ideal for snowmaking and keeping the snow that’s already here around for a while longer.
Although our groundhog weatherman predicted an early spring, there is plenty of terrain for skiers and riders of all ages and ability level to enjoy themselves in Ellicottville this February.