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Warmth not welcome on Whitetail slopes

March 13, 2002|BY RICHARD F. BELISLE

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Above-average winter temperatures, while nice for many Tri-State residents, were not embraced by the owners of Whitetail Ski Resort and the patrons who normally flock to the 19-slope ski run every year.

Whitetail spokesman Chris Black said Tuesday that the Blairs Valley Road resort ended the season with business about 15 percent below that of a year with normal winter temperatures.

Still, it wasn't the disaster that some thought it might have been, Black said.

"It could have been the way the weather was," he said. "It wasn't a year to remember, but we were very fortunate to do the business that we did."

Waynesboro, Pa., weather observer Jerry Ashway said temperatures were 6 degrees above average in December, 10 degrees above normal in January - usually around 28 degrees - and in February they ranged nearly 8 degrees above the normal 30-degree temperatures.

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"I'm a skier myself but I didn't get out there this year. The only time I could have gone was in early January when we had that cold snap," Ashway said.

Black said there was a two-week period in early January when all 19 slopes were open.

The season started late, Dec. 26, and ended early, this weekend, he said. In a normal year the season begins in mid-December and runs through mid-March, he said.

There were still some remnants of snow on some slopes at Whitetail Tuesday, but there was also a lot of green on the mountain.

Normally, Black said, Whitetail has a big window of snow-making time, from two to three weeks, in a good year. This season the window was two or three days when temperatures went low enough to start up the equipment.

Whitetail spent about $3 million on a new snow-making system last year. "The new equipment was able to put a lot of snow down in a hurry and that was a help," he said. "It would have been a bigger help in a better season."

Whitetail is owned by Snow Time Inc., of York, Pa. The company also owns Ski Roundtop near Harrisburg, Pa., and Ski Liberty near Fairfield, Pa.

The number of people employed at Whitetail in a typical ski season - 700 to 800 - was about the same this season, but they didn't work as many hours, Black said. Year-round workers at Whitetail number about 25, he said.

The resort is already looking forward to next year. Black said a proposal is on the table to add 17,000 square feet to the lodge. The project would expand the ticket office and bring the retail shop to the first floor from the basement. It also would allow the administration offices, now in a house off the main campus, to be moved into the lodge, Black said.

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