‘A bit of a roller coaster’: NH ski industry looks back on challenging winter season

Cannon Mountain's

Cannon Mountain's "front five" ski trails seen in Franconia earlier this year. DAN TUOHY—NHPR


New Hampshire Public Radio

Published: 06-13-2024 12:07 PM

Visits were down 6% at New Hampshire ski resorts this past season as a rainy winter created challenging conditions. That decline includes alpine, cross-country, and tubing visits, according to Ski New Hampshire, a trade association representing the local ski industry.

Jessyca Keeler, president of Ski New Hampshire, described last winter as “a bit of a roller coaster.” The season kicked off strong, but heavy rain intervened right before Christmas.

Snow storms in the late winter and early spring brought some helpful traffic, but also their own challenges. One April snowstorm drove visitation to some northern areas, but had negative impacts on others due to power outages.

Nordic ski areas faced unique challenges due to the weather conditions, with visits down 14% from the previous year. Cross country trails often stretch miles into the woods. As a result, snow making is a less affordable and feasible option in the face of challenging weather.

“The cross country areas haven't been able to bounce back as easily because they're not getting that natural snow,” Keeler said. “And because they don't have the same snowmaking systems that an alpine area does.”

Many New Hampshire ski resorts have now opened for summer operations, which can help account for less ideal winter seasons.

“Snow making and [trail] grooming are major parts of how we've adapted and remained resilient over the years, but also adding other activities for people to do has been really important as well,” Keeler said.

New Hampshire winters have been getting warmer. According to the 2021 State Climate Assessment, they are expected to continue doing so over the next century. Peak cold temperatures could warm at least 12 degrees or as high as 20, depending on the concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.

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Keeler said the ski industry is accustomed to the challenges that unpredictable weather can bring, and expects that it will continue adapting in the face of climate change.

“We’ve adapted a lot over the years. The climate has been changing,” she said. “But at the same time, certainly in the northeast in particular, the weather and winters have been a challenge for decades.”