Bryce sees historic late opening

Christmastime temperatures in the area reaching into the 70s – helped along by El Niño – didn’t bode well for snowmaking at Bryce Resort.

In fact, the only snow production it’s been able to muster in the mild weather seen this year so far was with smaller machinery that works in temperatures up to the high 20s. Marketing Director Doug Grayson said the newer, larger guns that produce more snow need reliable temperatures in the high teens and lower 20s.

Within the past few years, the resort has seen colder temperatures in earlier months – Bryce was able to open to skiers around Thanksgiving for several years. Last year, the season got a head start when weekend visitors came out to enjoy the slopes as early as Nov. 22.

Grayson said this season’s opening will be the latest date on record for the resort in its 50 years of operation.

It’s not just Bryce, either – ski resorts along the East Coast have had to delay their seasons because of the warm weather. Of course, winter storm Goliath has just recently dumped a mix of cold precipitation on the furthest northeastern states, but Grayson said that Mid-Atlantic resorts up to Pennsylvania have remained closed into late December with a few short-lived exceptions.

“Big resorts like Killington and Stowe in Vermont are maybe 10 percent open – if that – and that’s kind of crazy too,” he said.

In the meantime, Bryce has offered some alternatives to snow shredding for holiday visitors. Grayson said the resort saw a sizable crowd the weekend after Christmas on its golf courses and bike park, where he said around 160 bikers took advantage of the rare opportunity in the warmer weather.

“We got a chance to use the mountain and get some people out on it,” he said.

Snow isn’t really necessary for other events the resort has coming up, including an Ullr Bonfire at 7 p.m. Wednesday for a good ski season and a New Year’s Eve dinner and celebration with live music and fireworks.

Although the resort is seeing a later opening, Grayson said the season tends to end at about the same time every year, around mid-March. Snowmaking preparedness started at the resort in November. If temperatures cooperate, Grayson said they could be opening up the slopes within the next week or two, but the key to a successful start is two to three cold nights in a row.

“Looking at the seven day trends, it looks like we may get a few nights of snowmaking in next week after New Year’s … but anything can change, unfortunately,” he said.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com