A look at what’s in store for the New England ski season

  • Mikaela Shiffrin competes during the women’s Alpine Skiing World Cup giant slalom race in Killington, Vt. The World Cup is returning to Killington in 2017 on Thanksgiving weekend. AP

  • FILE - In this Nov. 27, 2016 file photo, workers prepare the course before the women's FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup slalom race in Killington, Vt. The World Cup is returning to Killington in 2017 on Thanksgiving weekend. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File) Mike Groll

  • In this Nov. 7, 2017 photo provided by Mount Snow, new high efficiency snow guns create snow in West Dover, Vt. The resort, which opened Nov. 11, completed a 30 million snowmaking upgrade which doubles its ability to make snow. (Jamie Storrs/Mount Snow via AP) Jamie Storrs

Associated Press
Monday, November 20, 2017

The ground may be bare now, but there’s snow in the hills as New England ski resorts kick off the season with ever more high efficiency snow-making guns blasting onto slopes.

From the return of the women’s World Cup in Killington to the debut of snowcat skiing at Sugarloaf in Maine, resorts are offering a variety of events and upgrades to draw skiers and riders this season.

Here’s a look at what to expect.

World Cup skiing

For a second year in a row, the women’s World Cup is returning to Killington in Vermont with slalom and giant slalom races Thanksgiving weekend. Scheduled racers included defending World Cup champion Michaela Shiffrin as well as Resi Stiegler of the U.S. and Petra Vlhova of Slovakia.

High-tech tickets

Say goodbye to the paper lift ticket attached to a jacket by a wire hanger. More resorts have swapped them out for high-tech tickets and passes with radio-frequency identification that allow skiers and riders to carry them in jacket pockets and pass quickly through gates to board lifts.

Big ski areas that have already adopted the technology say it cuts down on fraud, reduces lift lines and helps them track use of lifts and trails as well lost skiers. This season Sugarbush and Smugglers’ Notch in Vermont and Waterville Valley, Mount Sunapee Resort and Gunstock Mountain Resort in New Hampshire will be using RFID technology.

More snowmaking, less energy

From Mount Snow in Vermont to Waterville Valley in New Hampshire, resorts are bulking up their snowmaking, making more snow using less power, allowing them to open sooner and keep the slopes covered longer. This year, Mount Snow in West Dover, Vermont, completed a $30 million snowmaking upgrade that it says doubles its ability to make snow. The southern Vermont resort opened Nov. 11, its earliest opening in a decade, said spokesman Jamie Storrs.

“It was really about getting open and showing off this new snowmaking system and what it could do for our pass holders who have been anxiously awaiting it,” he said.

Cat skiing

For the adventurous expert skier and rider, Maine’s Sugarloaf is debuting its snowcat-serviced skiing and riding in “sidecountry” terrain this season. Snowcat snow-grooming machines with passenger seating will deliver skiers and riders up Burnt Mountain, home to steep terrain and powder. The resort says this season, cat rides will be offered on weekends and vacation weeks only. The price, on top of a lift ticket or season’s pass, ranges from $20 to $30 for a cat ride depending on the time of day.

“Since its opening, our sidecountry terrain has become a fan favorite among Sugarloafers,” according to Crusher Wilkinson, Sugarloaf VP of Mountain Operations. “The new Burnt Mountain Cat Skiing will not only enhance the skiing and riding experience, but also make the terrain more accessible to our guests.”