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  • One skier takes advantage of the April Fool's Day snowstorm on Friday at Loon Mountain, but most ski areas have closed or are wrapping things up soon. Loon is scheduled to close April 17. Photo courtesy of Gus Noffke, Loon Mountain.
  • A couple skiers find their way through the April Fool's Day snowstorm on Friday at Loon Mountain, but most ski areas have closed or are wrapping things up soon. Loon is scheduled to close April 17. Photo courtesy of Gus Noffke, Loon Mountain.
Sunday, April 3, 2011

NH ski areas all but done for season

Despite one last batch of heavy snow Friday, most ski areas in New Hampshire are in the process of closing, and some have already closed for the season.

Even with plenty of snow on the ground and 100 percent of terrain still open at some resorts, the mind-set of skiing has left for sunnier activities.

Bill Quigley, marketing director at Gunstock Mountain Resort, said the start of spring sports at local middle and high schools can spell doom for the ski resorts, no matter how much snow they have or how much terrain stays open.

“Most everyone has started softball, baseball, lacrosse, track; the kids can’t come, so the parents don’t come,” he said.

Quigley said Gunstock plans to close winter operations at the end of the day today, even after Friday’s brief snowstorm. While it made for a better final weekend, it doesn’t change the resort’s planned outcome.

“I like to think everybody has a toy closet somewhere, and once the skis go behind the golf clubs, very rarely do they reach over them until next season,” Quigley said.

Falling in line with many other New Hampshire ski areas, Gunstock will make a new transition to summer operations and open an aerial treetop adventure course for Memorial Day weekend in May and continue to expand operations this summer with a mountain coaster and zip lines, Quigley said.

“We’re putting $2.1 million into the mountain over the next 40 days,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff to do. Most ski areas don’t transition so quickly.”

Greg Keeler, marketing director at Cannon Mountain, said the transition to summer starts as soon as the air gets warm.

“Some years, no matter what you have open, you can’t get people skiing,” Keeler said.

Instead, the staff works mostly on maintenance for their summer projects to make sure they’re up and ready to go, and for Cannon, that includes the aerial tramway to the mountain summit.

With Cannon in the heart of Franconia Notch State Park, Keeler said the mountain gets “substantially more visitors” in summer than in winter.

“There’s bus groups and tours and all kinds of tourists,” he said. “Summertime is busy time for us here at Cannon.”

The mountain also operates Echo Lake Beach at Cannon’s base, as well as Lafayette Campground and Flume Gorge for summer tourists who visit the state park.

While many resorts have turned their attention to the four-season model with a focus on summer operations, including Attitash, Cranmore, Loon and others, there are still a few winter-only ski areas without much to do in the summer.

Crotched Mountain in Bennington is one of those spots.

General manager Pat Terry said without summer operations to watch over, the offseason is more focused on planning and brainstorming for the following winter.

“Once we close, it’s a matter of reflecting on the season and how everything went and figuring out what we can do to make it a better experience for guests next season,” he said.

Terry said he didn’t think a lack of summer activities hurt the mountain, since Bennington isn’t as popular of a tourist destination and Crotched Mountain doesn’t own any real estate to house summer guests.

The only summer activity available at Crotched is to host functions or weddings at its lodge, Terry said.

“We’re really just a winter resort,” he said. “We don’t own condos, so we focus on just winter operations. We do what we can to increase the experience that people have at Crotched.”

Crotched plans to close for the winter after skiing ends today, but on a high note.

The snowstorm Friday kept the mountain 100 percent open for its final weekend of the season.

“We would not have opened this weekend if the weather was bad, but it’s nice to offer an extra weekend for pass holders and anybody who wants to ski locally,” he said.

Many mountains had banner years, with the repeated snowstorms well timed around the big skiing holidays. Quigley said Gunstock had a great year, totaling almost 130 inches of snow and dousing the mountain with 160 million gallons of water in snowmaking.

But when the snow melts, there isn’t much left to do but pack up and get ready for what’s next.

“It’s seasonal, and it’s time to move on,” he said.

Cameron Kittle can be reached at 594-6523 or ckittle@nashuatelegraph.com. The Telegraph and NH.com have launched a Web site that’s a one-stop place for New Hampshire ski news, events and ticket giveaways. The site features live Twitter feed from the slopes and a map plotting each resort. Visit www.nh.com/skiing.