By Janice Habuda
News Staff Reporter Buffalo News
Published: February 20, 2010, 6:43 am
Many days this winter, dawn at Kissing Bridge has broken with the same scene as the morning before.
A layer of new snow.
"It seems like the old movie "Groundhog Day,' " said Mark Halter, president of the Glenwood ski area. "You get up in the morning, there's four inches of snow."
Skiers and snowboarders couldn't ask for better conditions or weather after an unusually dry and warm November when it was too warm to even make snow.
"It's been a really, really nice year," said Jane Eshbaugh, marketing director at Holiday Valley in Ellicottville. "We've had really consistent weather ... a little bit of snow at a time."
As a result, business has been brisk, particularly on holidays and during school breaks.
"The holidays have been really good," said Linda Johnson, office manager at Cockaigne Ski Center in Cherry Creek. "We had a fairly good weekend, and Monday [Presidents Day] was very good."
"We haven't had an overabundance of snow, but it's come at all the right times," Johnson said.
Snow business offers no guarantees. It was just three years ago that golfers were walking the links in January, while members of high school ski clubs were cooling their heels.
This year, not even a January thaw interrupted the season.
Only 36 hours of above-freezing temperatures have been recorded at Kissing Bridge in 2010.
"That's absolutely remarkable," Halter said.
"In the economic turmoil that you hear about ... we are a discretionary purchase," Halter said. "We are not something that you have to have."
That said, local resorts are reporting ticket sales are strong.
"In fact, we are having our strongest over-the-counter year in six years," Halter said.
The president of a national ski organization said the western regions of New York and Pennsylvania are on track for a banner season.
"It's been a spectacular year and attendance is up over last year," said Michael Berry, president of the Colorado-based National Ski Areas Association.
Final numbers on lift ticket sales won't be available until spring, but anecdotal evidence suggests an increase, he said.
"We are far enough into the season now that you can predict the end," Berry said. "I think we will see a number of resorts in the Northeast where they will have a record year this year."
Ticket sales at local areas are being helped by skiers and snowboarders shopping for bargains, as well as numerous myriad promotions to get people on the slopes.
A New Jersey resident called Cockaigne Ski Center recently to ask about rates, Johnson said. The price of Cockaigne's Saturday, eight-hour lift ticket has held at $34 for the past three years.
Days after that phone call, Johnson said she was in the ski shop when she encountered that New Jersey family.
"They had called Vermont and didn't want to pay $80 for a lift ticket," she related. "They ended up here and were here for a couple of days."
The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, with its breathtaking visuals of snow sport venues, may be responsible for bringing some first-timers to the slopes, Halter said.
"An awful lot of people are trying the sport," he said.
As for the unpredictable, and sometimes downright unseasonable, weather that has plagued the games, Halter said Western New York has had that kind of winter.
But not this year.
"This is a fun winter to be in the business," he said.
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