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Snowless Ski Resorts Offer Hiking, Mini Golf — Or Pleas For Donations

A snow gun sits idle at the Mount Sunapee Ski resort in Newbury, N.H., last week. Unusually warm weather has forced many ski resorts to delay their seasons — or get creative.
Jim Cole
A snow gun sits idle at the Mount Sunapee Ski resort in Newbury, N.H., last week. Unusually warm weather has forced many ski resorts to delay their seasons — or get creative.

The holidays are usually a busy time on the slopes, but unseasonably warm weather this month is wreaking havoc on ski resorts — and skiers' plans — in the Midwest and Northeast.

Ski resorts in New York and Pennsylvania are assuring would-be visitors that they're ready to make snow "in a moment's notice" as soon as cold weather returns, reports AccuWeather. But there's no getting around that at the moment, there's simply no snow to be had.

The winter-that-just-wouldn't-start could have a dire economic impact on such resorts. The director of one tells AccuWeather that Christmas visitors usually account for 20 percent of the season's total business.

Resorts are having to think beyond the slopes. At least one has actually brought back its summer activities — normally unavailable at this time of year — for the Christmas season, The Toronto Star reported last week. The Blue Mountain Resort in Ontario, Canada, made the call after it was wholly snowless just a week before Christmas.

"The resort will re-open its ropes course, mini putt course, zip lines and climbing wall this Saturday at 10 a.m. and the activities will be available every day throughout the holiday period," the Star reports.

As of Wednesday, Blue Mountain had created enough snow to open one trail — while other slopes are accessible to visitors as a "hike park" or a "scenic chairlift ride."

Farther south, in Maryland, Wisp Resort also has exactly one trail open — plus a few carpets and synthetic surfaces to glide on.

"Ice skating, Segway tours, tree-canopy tours and a mountain coaster ride will also be available," the Associated Press reports.

And the Searchmont Resort in Ontario is simply asking for donations from the public.

"Natural snow is limited, and without world-class snow making equipment, blowing artificial snow would only be for the purpose of making bigger puddles," the resort said in a press release, according to CBS Detroit.

"Searchmont is open to any and all ideas including title sponsorships, naming rights, and more. We welcome your ideas, donations, and support with open arms and many thanks," the resort's owners said.

Out West, many resorts have had better luck. The Colorado mountains, for example, are almost guaranteed to have a white Christmas.

"A foot of new snow — on top of already generous amounts of snow — could pile up in the next few days," reports the Denver Post.

It's the kind of forecast Eastern resorts can only dream of this Christmas.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: December 24, 2015 at 12:00 AM EST
A previous version of this post misidentified the location of the Searchmont resort. It is in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, not near Detroit.
Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.

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