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Some ski areas prepared to grapple with weather

If there's ever been a year that skiers needed patience and faith when it comes to the weather, this is it. Lack of snow, too much snow, snow in the wrong place at the wrong time, rain, fog - you name it, and there's a ski area that's had it.

Only last weekend, after a year of planning and enough pre-event ballyhoo to rival the Super Bowl, the men's World Cup downhill at Aspen, with coast-to-coast same-day network television coverage, had to be postponed a day because of a snowstorm! In Quebec the women's World Cup races had to be moved from Mont Ste. Anne to Mont Tremblant because of not enough snow.

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In the High Sierras they've had so much snow they worry about avalanches. In the Northeast they've had enough rain and balmy air to go into rice farming. If it's been tough on the skiers, it's been tougher on ski area people. They sometimes struggle all night to have the place looking good when the skiers arrive in the morning.

True, that's all part of the job, and praise should be unnecessary. But the following story is an illustration of how some - not all - ski areas have successfully fought the elements.

By Thursday morning of the first week in February, Jiminy Peak in the Massachusetts Berkshires had received over two inches of rain within a day or so. When the temperature finally dropped Friday morning and the snow started to harden, the area's hydrotiller grooming machine blew its engine. After being repaired, the machine was used all night with another hydrotiller as snowmaking went on full blast. Among Saturday's skiers who knew nothing of Jiminy's troubles were my sons, who went there with some friends. They returned on that snowless weekend raving about the surprisingly good conditions.

In a sense that says it all, except perhaps for this addendum. Don't let the weather stop you, not while there are areas with the modern technology and grit of a Jiminy Peak supplying good skiing, despite the elements.

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