FAYSTON, Vt. (AP) — Ski resorts are expecting visitors to flock to the mountains of northern New England and upstate New York for rare powder as the snow-shrouded region heads into the mid-winter school break, a prime period for winter tourism.
This winter provided early snow, and dumped plenty of it in January and February with temperatures cold enough to keep it on the ground, to the dismay of some weather-weary residents.
But the repeated storms, like the one that pummeled Boston over the weekend, have city-dwelling skiers and snowboarders throughout the northeast in the frame of mind to head north to the slopes.
"We were here all day yesterday and the conditions were top," Steve Bubonia, of Albany, New York, said of Vermont's Mad River Glen on Wednesday.
Mother Nature's help means big years for northern New England's slopes, according to industry groups. Vermont is on track with last year's 4.5 million skier and rider visits — the 3rd best on record — and could see that number improve. New Hampshire has a shot at a top-10 year. And Maine is on track to exceed last year's 1.3 million skier visits, though it remains to be seen if it will approach its 2008 record of 1.4 million.
Jean and Stephanie Morin came down to Vermont from Montreal to sample the ample fresh, light powder the storms have provided.
"My legs are enjoying it," said Jean Morin, who normally skis in the Laurentian Mountains in Quebec.
Eric Friedman, Mad River's marketing director, called the skiing conditions "absolutely world-class."
"This is the stuff that people would pay a lot of money to ski," he said.
People are buying lift tickets in advance in droves and a few are even coming from out West to partake in New England's snowy winter, Freidman said.
The Boston Ski and Sports Club has sent multiple buses for weekend trips to Vermont and Maine and has had "a very busy, sold-out, full year," said general manager Sharon Brigham.
"Our population that are going on the buses, they are those avid skiers that are coming out in the middle of snowstorms in order to go get the powder on the slopes," she said.
Last weekend the club sent five busloads of skiers and snowboarders to Jay Peak in Vermont and on Monday, President's Day, it's headed to Sunday River in Newry, Maine, adding a second bus to meet demand.
Skiers who visited New Hampshire's Loon Mountain booked for a weekend but then saw the heavy snow cover and stayed for three days, said spokesman Greg Kwasnik. All that means the mountain is set up well for the school break week, typically one of the busiest of the season.
"To have conditions this great heading into that week is really fantastic," Kwasnik said.
This year, the Northeast didn't have the January thaw that it often experiences, said Jon Lundin, a spokesman for New York's Olympic Regional Development Authority. The upstate New York mountains get a good share of their business from Connecticut and Massachusetts and he's confident they'll come north for the break week despite the recent spate of storms. ORDA's three mountains — Whiteface, Gore and Belleayre — get about 680,000 visitors a year.
Those who aren't sick of the snow are embracing it.
Membership to the snowmobile club in Danville, Vermont — a popular snowmobiling spot in the Northeast Kingdom — has jumped 15 percent so far this season.
"I think because of the early snow and conditions," said Alan Towle, treasurer of the Danville S-SKI-MOS.
Greg Sweetser from Ski Maine said people who're complaining about all of the snow need an attitude adjustment.
"You've got to get out and play in it," he said. "There's a balance between removing the snow and playing in the snow. I'm still playing in the snow."
In Maine, all Nordic and alpine ski areas are fully open. That's a far cry from Christmas week when a deluge of rain created setbacks for ski areas.
Now the state is buried in snow, and the timing couldn't be better, Sweetser said.
"Everyone is in fabulous shape for the vacation week. February and March are the two biggest ski months of the season. It's important that we're set up for the most important eight-week stretch ahead of us," he said.
David Sharp in Portland, Maine, and Rik Stevens in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.