First storm of 2014: Wealth of snow brings benefits, too

BRATTLEBORO -- The few days following New Years Day are typically a time for ski resorts to catch their collective breaths after the Christmas break.

The week between Christmas and New Years traditionally kicks off the ski and snowboard season and with modern snow making most mountains are ready to go before the end of December, enticing thousands of snow lovers to drive up to Vermont.

On Thursday, with up to a foot of snow predicted to fall on southern Vermont throughout the night, mountain operators were celebrating the fresh powder and looking forward to more fun on the slopes.

"We'll take it," Okemo Mountain Spokeswoman Bonnie MacPherson said. "We've already had great luck with the weather and now this sets up for another great weekend."

The way Christmas fell this year, in the middle of the week, the resorts got an extra weekend during the break and she said the hotel rooms at the mountain were at about 90 percent occupancy throughout the week.

With colder-than-normal temperatures leading up to Christmas, Okemo was able to make enough snow for the mountain, as well as for the snow tubing hill, and the resort even had its ice skating rink open for those who prefer their winter sports on an even plain.

Thursday's storm, MacPherson said, was like a big cherry on an already overflowing ice cream sundae.

"This really keeps the stoke going," she said. "We started out strong and now the weather is really cooperating. Everyone is excited and the season is only just beginning."

Snow began falling overnight (Wednesday into Thursday) in parts of New England and New York, but the real brunt of the storm wasn't expected to hit until late Thursday. As much as a foot of snow or more was forecast for some areas overnight Thursday into Friday, and temperatures were expected to plummet, with some areas seeing highs just above zero, according to the National Weather Service.

Locally, forecasters were calling for more than a foot of snow in southern Vermont.

Up to 14 inches of snow is forecast for the Boston area and the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for Long Island -- where 8 to 10 inches of snow could fall and winds could gust up to 45 mph -- from Thursday evening into Friday afternoon.

At Burrows Specialized Sports on Main Street, shop owner Bob "Woody" Woodworth was also celebrating the timing and predicted intensity of the most recent storm.

When the snow piles up "down country," Woodworth said, families change their plans and head to Vermont as soon as they can.

Nothing helps sell skis and snowboard equipment like snow, and with this storm coming just as the Christmas rush is finishing up Woodworth said the storm will hopefully encourage skiers, snowboarders and Nordic fans to grab those deals and head out into the powder.

Woodworth said the first big storm cleared out a lot of the cross country ski equipment and he put in another order to replenish the racks.

A foot of powder, he said, should encourage more people to upgrade and head out.

"It's like a good old fashioned snow storm," Woodworth said. "School programs start this week and hopefully they'll get Memorial Park open soon. Hopefully this snow will get everyone cranked up. It makes a big difference It's really helpful."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at; or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.


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