This time of year is generally the busiest for Troy’s Ski Lubbock.
But business has been relatively slow compared to years past this ski season, said owner Phillip Howard. Below-average natural snowfall at ski destinations in New Mexico and Colorado is partially to blame.
“Unfortunately, this year it’s been quite dry here in New Mexico, even in higher elevations,” said George Brooks, executive director of Ski New Mexico, a not-for-profit organization created to promote the New Mexico ski industry.
Places that generally accumulate more than 100 inches of snow per season by this point have lingered between 20 and 70 inches, depending on the destination, Brooks said.
Howard said ski season generally runs from late November to about spring break, with December through February being a peak time for ski trips.
The lack of snowfall is prompting his customers to shorten ski trips or postpone or cancel plans altogether.
But it’s still business as usual at ski destinations.
One factor Brooks said ski destination guests often fail to consider is man-made snow.
“Probably 80 to 70 percent of guests ski on trails that, even when you have a good snow year, you have man-made snow on them,” Brooks said. “I don’t think people really realize that.”
While there’s less snow to work with, it doesn’t mean there’s not enough to ski on. Skiers generally stay within the top 3 inches, Brooks said.
Howard, a skier himself, keeps webcam footage of ski destinations open and playing on TV screens at his store. During a visit to his shop earlier this week, he pointed out boulders and shrubs he said are usually not visible at several destinations.
According to Krysty Ronchetti, public relations director for Angel Fire Resort in New Mexico, visitors to Angel Fire have not slowed.
“As far as skier turnout — we are still having a very strong turnout from guests,” she wrote in an email this week to the Avalanche-Journal. “Skiers and snowboarders are still coming on ski vacations. Due to the snow conditions, some are skiing fewer days but are still looking for an experience, so they are taking part in other activities such as tubing, sleigh rides and etc.”
Chris Linsmayer, public affairs director with Colorado Ski Country USA, which is a trade association representing 23 ski areas in Colorado, said conditions are a little better in Colorado because of the high elevation, but it’s still not doing as well as in years past.
“The first thing I’ll say is because of elevation in Colorado mountains, they’re much higher than most other states,” Linsmayer said. “We are fortunate that we have lower temperatures up there.”
In some parts of the state, he said, snow is between 10 and 12 inches deep, while other parts are measuring in the 30s.
“Those numbers tend to fluctuate,” he said. “Some portions of the state are looking below average.”
Other areas look better, Linsmayer said.
Right before the Christmas holiday, some parts of Colorado received significant snowfall that allowed ski areas to open more terrain, he said.
Even without it, Linsmayer said, man-made snow options are good enough to get many destinations through the season.
Ronchetti, with Angel Fire Resort, wrote: “If Mother Nature provides to us the cold temperatures to make snow, we can make snow all season long. Our snow-making plan would be to continue to make snow and open more terrain, both front side and back side, as conditions allow. How fast we can accomplish this is up to Mother Nature and her temperatures.”