Resorts rejoice: Cold, snow bring out skiers

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PORTLAND, Maine — Skiers and ski resort operators hope a storm that walloped New England will mark the start of something good this holiday season after the region experienced a Christmas rainstorm two years ago and record warmth last December, causing profits to melt away.

There likely won't be anyone wearing short sleeves during the holidays this year; the coldest weather of the season is expected to move into New England this weekend.

"Last winter was so dismal. So it's nice to see some white on the ground," Maine skier Chuck Domenie said while browsing for new mittens and goggles.

Monday's snowstorm dumped up to a half-foot across northern New England. And the forecast through the end of the month calls for colder-than-normal weather — with no significant snowmelt or rain, said Chris Kimble of the National Weather Service.

Nationwide, the forecast from the West Coast to the Rockies also looks good for the ski industry, said Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association.

"Winter has started in all seriousness. We expect to be in great shape as we move into the Christmas holidays across the country," Berry said.

Skiers in New England won't soon forget last December when temperatures climbed to nearly 70 degrees on Christmas Eve in Boston and to 62 degrees on Christmas Day in Portland. The year before, heavy rain around Christmas washed away any snow that had fallen.

The current weather pattern suggests there won't be a repeat. The lower temperatures are expected to remain through the end of the year, said Kimble.

In Vermont, Killington was one of the few ski resorts with enough snow to host a World Cup downhill event Thanksgiving weekend. The resort already has received 66 inches of snow; compared with 81 inches for all of last season, said spokesman Michael Joseph.

In southern New Hampshire, Al Jenks from Windblown Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing said there will be skiing this weekend. He hopes the weather holds and that there is no major warmup.

In Scarborough, Maine, Arlberg ski store was swamped with customers Monday eager to get their skis tuned up for the season after the snowstorm closed schools and many businesses.

Owner John Rock added a night shift to try to meet demand. "It's been crazy. Everyone who didn't want things until after Christmas — they want it now," he said.

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