March 22, 2012

Hot weather bodes ill for ski resorts (4 PICS)


Skiers in Newry, Maine, stripped down to shorts and bikini tops to keep cool Wednesday as they got in a few final sun-drenched, slushy runs, bidding what could be an early goodbye to a season that has disappointed all around.

Skiers stripped down to shorts and bikini tops to keep cool Wednesday as they got in a few final sun-drenched, slushy runs, bidding what could be an early goodbye to a season that has disappointed all around.

An unprecedented spell of record temperatures soaring into the 80s had New England skiers dodging dirt patches and exposed rocks as melting snow spelled potentially millions in losses for those who make their living off winter tourism and sports.

"It's like `swinter' -- summer and winter combined," said 15-year-old Allie Ward, who wore only a bikini and boots during a break from skiing at Sunday River. She was joined by a sunburned friend, both of North Shore in Canada's Prince Edward Island.

A year after ski resorts reported a record 60.5 million visits, the season opened last year with early snow and high expectations. But optimism was short-lived as Christmas arrived with little or none in many parts of the country. And the trend carried through the winter, with a few notable exceptions, like parts of Alaska.

Only a few of Maine's 22 ski areas were open Wednesday. Sugarloaf, the state's tallest ski mountain, tried to put a good face on the warm temperatures, tweeting this week about sun-drenched "slushy goodness" on its slopes.


Colorado Ski Country USA estimated that the number of visits at its 24 resorts in the nation's biggest skiing state is down 7.4 percent so far this season, spokeswoman Jennifer Rudolph said Wednesday from Denver.

That represents losses of millions of dollars in revenue for ski resorts, retail stores and hotels. Cross-country skiing and snowmobiling also suffered.

In the end, the December-to-February period was the fourth-warmest in the continental U.S., and was one of the three warmest on record from Washington, D.C., to Caribou, Maine, said Jessica Rennells, of the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

This week, the warmth reached epic proportions.



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