MONTPELIER >> It may be tough to top last winter's record ski season in Vermont and colossal snowfall around New England, but Northeastern resorts hope to continue to draw in crowds with upgrades to snowmaking, lifts and lodging this winter.
Other news this season ranges from a bus to bring skiers from New York to Vermont and a snow playground for little ones.
Farmers' Almanac is predicting another rough winter for New England, with editors of the Maine-based publication calling it a "winter deja vu."
Killington Resort in Vermont and Sunday River in Maine got an early jump on the season by opening for a time in late October, following late closing dates last spring.
Once the season is in full swing, city dwellers will have another way to get to the slopes at Stratton Mountain. Starting in January a bus service will deliver skiers and riders from Manhattan to the southern Vermont resort and back on weekends. The service is modeled on a jitney that carries New Yorkers to and from the beach at the Hamptons on New York's Long Island. Stratton is also expanding its original base lodge, adding 4,000 square feet and 350 seats.
Base lodge and snowmaking improvements were also part of the offseason work at New Hampshire's Wildcat Mountain and Attitash Mountain. Attitash has added 150 snowmaking guns completing an upgrade started before last season.
Following a chairlift accident last season that injured seven people at Sugarloaf in Maine, that resort is installing a new load terminal at the base of the lift and upgrading the emergency braking and electronic systems on all other lifts, said spokeswoman Noelle Tuttle.
Lift maintenance is a priority for other resorts, as well.
Back in Vermont, more than $600,000 has been earmarked for the installation of new electronic lift drive systems on two gondolas at Killington, as well as communications lines, new haul ropes, component upgrades, and improvements at load and unload terminals for a number of lifts at both Killington and nearby Pico Mountain.
To cater to visitors when they're off the slopes, Vermont's Stowe Mountain Resort is adding new retail shops, restaurants, food markets and a children's adventure center with a ski/ride school, daycare facilities, climbing gym and children's activities at Spruce Peak.
Kids are also a priority at Smugglers' Notch in Jeffersonville, Vermont, which has added a new snow playground where 3-to 6-year-olds can try skiing and riding with snow features like a mini pipe, rollers and hoops and obstacle courses.
And to keep kids safe, Maine's Sugarloaf will equip every child in the ski and snowboard school with a GPS tracker that records their location in case they take a wrong turn or get separated from the class.