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September 08. 2013 9:40PM

NH ski areas upgrade while the sun shines

MANCHESTER — Many ski areas around the state are adding amenities for the approaching winter season, including new or expanded terrain parks at Loon Mountain in Lincoln and McIntrye Ski Area in Manchester.

At McIntyre, officials hope to open a new terrain park with “obstacles to ski and snowboard over, and do tricks off of,” said Ross Boisvert, its vice president and general manager. It also is improving the bottom of its tubing area.

Loon’s terrain park will grow by 50 percent for this season and be twice last year’s size by the following season.

But no matter what the improvements, snow is the ultimate king — whether made by machine or by Mother Nature.

“Right now, we’re seeing a trend in a lot of investment in snow-making equipment,” said Karl Stone, marketing director of Ski NH, a statewide association representing 33 alpine and cross-country resorts.The Mount Sunapee Ski Area in Newbury purchased 52 high-efficiency snow guns costing $185,000, according to Bruce McCoy, director of marketing.

The new guns can produce twice as much snow at 27 degrees than the older guns and use only 25 percent of the energy to run them, McCoy said.“What does it mean for skiers? We can get trails open earlier and ... we can get more terrain open earlier,” said McCoy, who noted snow making is one of the ski area’s biggest expenses.Mount Sunapee averages an opening around Dec. 2, depending on the weather, of course, McCoy said.

The ski area, which is spending about $700,000 on capital improvements for this winter’s season, also is constructing an addition to a building that houses a family alpine program, he said.

Loon spokesman Greg Kwasnik said the resort is making $1.3 million in improvements this year, including new snow-making equipment that saves both time and energy.

The equipment “makes it easier to turn the guns on early in the season when we have a real short window to make snow,” Kwasnik said. “With this new equipment, it will be that much easier to fire things up.”

Stone said the largest project underway this summer is at Pat’s Peak. The Henniker ski area is adding a new triple chairlift and four new ski trails.

He said the state’s larger ski areas look to open before the Thanksgiving holiday while “the rest of our smaller ski areas shoot for December.”

Some larger ski areas will remain open through mid-April, depending on the weather and level of business, Stone said.
But summer is the time for making improvement.“Every ski area in the state does something every summer in the state,” Stone said. “They have to stay competitive.”

“Everything from work in their base lodges, on the grounds, on their property, trail work,” he said. “There’s always maintenance on the chair-lift infrastructure as well as the snow-making. Summer is really their opportunity to maintain their equipment and improve their properties.”

Stone said a third or more of a ski area’s business comes in a short period: vacation week including Christmas and New Year’s, the three-day, Martin Luther King Jr. weekend and the February school vacation weeks for New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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