Warmer weather affects ski resorts

PORTAGE, Wis. – Wisconsin experienced its second-warmest Christmas on record in 2019, and those warmer temperatures and lack of snow are now affecting local businesses that rely on the winter weather.

The high Friday was 37 degrees Fahrenheit (2.78 degrees Celsius), which was 10 degrees higher than normal for a five-year average, and in Madison, temperatures reached into the 50s multiple times in December. That warmth is melting any snow that had fallen around the southern part of Wisconsin.

“We’ve gotten (a) very little bit of fresh snow,” said Evan Walz, the marketing director at the ski resort Cascade Mountain.

Walz said Cascade Mountain needs to spread 16 to 36 inches of snow across 47 ski hills since there is no natural snow to cover the ground. And even though the ski resort has reached those numbers, some of the man-made snow has melted under the heat.

“It’s a little slushier,” said snowboarder Devin Maki. “It’s also a little funny driving up and seeing no snow anywhere and then seeing the runs covered in it.”

Despite the warmer weather, skiers and snowboarders haven’t stopped using the slopes.

“Obviously with the weird weather, many would think that sales are down, but we’re actually right on par with regular seasons,” Walz said.

The marketing manager of Devil’s Head Resort, Alex Stoick, said that the resort has noticed a slight decrease in the number of day skier visits, but that people are still excited to go.

“Everyone I’ve talked to at the resort is loving the spring-like conditions in December,” Stoick said. “You see a lot of people skiing in hoodies and even T-shirts or out sunbathing, trying to get a goggle tan to show off to their friends back home.”

In part, Stoick attributes steady sales to having a hotel at the resort.

“Midwest skiers and snowboarders typically get fired up with fresh snow on the ground. Going skiing with fresh snow is like going to the beach on a sunny day; they go hand in hand,” Stoick said. “However, having a hotel on-site is like having insurance for us with bad weather because a lot of these families have booked their trip weeks or months in advance.”

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