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Snowstorm makes early bird skiers sing

NORTH CONWAY - The day after Christmas is historically a travel day for visitors to the White Mountains, according to Kathy Bennett, Cranmore Mountain Resort marketing director, but some people come north sooner than that, and on Wednesday, those early birds were getting in some sweet runs down the region's ski slopes.

At Cranmore, eight lifts were operating and 26 trails were open. That's a little less than half of the resort's trails, which is the same percent at most other ski areas in the Whites. Those numbers should grow after Thursday's snowstorm, as the anticipated inches of white stuff will allow the state's downhill areas to open a lot more terrain.

"The timing couldn't be better," Bennett said.

Already, she said, the early winter weather's been better than last year's, and visitors appreciate that. "You can tell just by walking around," she added, "people are thrilled to be out."

She said Cranmore's lodging partners are reporting strong occupancy rates for the vacation week.

"I'm excited for it," Russell Pickup said of the coming storm as he sat in the lodge with 11-year-old Benjamyn Tyson. The two Fairhaven, Mass, residents are staying in the valley all week with 13 others at a family condo.

It was the first time Benjamyn tried snowboarding. Pickup said the young man was a natural and went "flying down the hill."

It's the 75th anniversary year for the North Conway ski mountain, and the "grande dame of the eastern slopes" is keeping up with much younger ski areas through some large infrastructure improvements over the past several years, including the resort's Mountain Adventure Park, which is open this winter, and its Soaring Eagle Zipline.

On Wednesday, C-More the Penguin, the resort's mascot, was on hand to help launch the first Cranapalooza of the ski season. The family event is held several times during the season and offers face painting, S'more roasting, live music and family entertainment, and on selected dates, fireworks.

Getting their faces painted by high school student Claire Bennett were Ava Sowyrda, 9, of Wakefield, Mass., and her 6-year-old brother, Cole, who were taking a break from the slopes. Ava got a black lab face on her cheek, Cole went for a football.

Conway teen Zac Mercauto has already been skiing five times this year. On Wednesday, he reported, "The conditions are great today."

With the snow predicted, those conditions should only get better.

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Sara Young-Knox may be reached at syoungknox@newstote.com.


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